Each year, as the weather begins to cool and days begin to shorten in the Lowcountry of Bluffton and Hilton Head South Carolina, both visitors and residents alike enjoy the taste of some of the largest, freshest, tastiest oysters on earth! Yep. September through December marks the best time to harvest oysters in Bluffton and Hilton Head. Although many will argue the May River Oysters are the best of the best, other areas, such as Broad Creek, can give the May River Oysters a run for their money. In any event, those of us enjoying the fresh harvest are the real winners.
Here’s a great guide for oyster basics.
How to Harvest Your Own Oysters
First things first. You need a saltwater fishing license to harvest oysters. Also, you want to wear the proper clothes and have the proper tools (boots, gloves, bucket, and hammer). You should harvest during low tide. If you have never harvested oysters before it’s a good idea to go with an experienced guide.
Once in the oyster bed, you will want to use the claw portion of the hammer to separate dead and young oysters from the mature ones. Anything under three inches long and one inch thick probably should be put back in the bed to continue to grow. Remember, the shells are sharp so wear gloves. Harvesting is pretty easy. Simply put your keepers in a bucket to take with you.
As an alternative to harvesting your own oysters, you can always buy them fresh at one of the local fish markets where they are harvested and sold fresh daily.
How to Cook Oysters
Some may argue that cooking an oyster is a cardinal sin and that all oysters should be slurped straight from the shell raw. That is one way to eat them but if you decide to grill, fry, or broil them you may find textures and flavors that are missed by the shuck and slurp method. Here are four great ways to Cook Oysters courtesy of Coastal Living.
How to Shuck Oysters
Instead of explaining this one, it’s probably better just to watch this video showcased by the Island Packet in November 2017.
How to Eat an Oyster (The Raw Kind)
Take the tiny fork and push the oyster around in its liquid-filled shell until you’re sure it is detached completely. Then, pick up the half shell and slurp down the oyster. You slurp from the wide end. Don’t swallow the oyster whole. That is an old wives tale. You should chew the oyster a couple of times to get the flavor and then swallow.
How Oysters Clean Our Waterways
The May River Oyster is known as one of the best oysters in the world. But, did you know that oysters do more than fill our bellies? They are an important part of protecting our waterways.
Oysters act as filters in much the same way an aquarium filter works. One adult oyster can filter as much as 50-gallons of water a day. As they filter the water, they filter excess nitrogen from the water which reduces algae growth and creates cleaner clearer water. Wild oysters usually have harder thicker shells to protect themselves from predators. The harder thicker shell has the ability to absorb more nitrogen than a farm-grown oyster would. Just looking at the oyster beds at low tide will give you a good idea of how many thousands of gallons of water the oysters filter each day. By the way, filtering the water is how the oysters eat!
The cleaner water provides a better environment for other marine life which results in a larger population (and healthier) fish and crabs.
In addition to being a great filter, the oysters provide a habitat for numerous marine species in their oyster beds or reefs. They also serve as a buffer from waves which protects the delicate spartina grass and help to prevent erosion.
How do you like to eat your oysters?
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