Could oysters save the world?
How’s that for a provocative title?
I love oysters – raw, lightly steamed, fried, stewed, just about any way possible. Because we couldn’t be in Beaufort this weekend, and it was a beautiful cloudless blue sky fall day, we set up in our own backyard with some fresh, right out of the water, North Carolina oysters.
We brought home a little Beaufort with own little family backyard oyster roast.
We made a quick trip to the Chapel Hill farmers market to visit Locals Seafood. They carry fresh North Carolina oysters from Chadwick Creek Oysters up in Bayboro – not quite Beaufort, but excellent and from North Carolina!
What is it about oysters?
Sometimes it’s that salty briney goodness that is the taste of oysters, but sometimes it’s the liturgy of preparing them that makes consuming oysters so amazing. The light roasting over an open fire, the twist of the oyster knife, the taste of ice cold beer as an accompaniment, that works.
But that’s the oyster cooked.
What about the glorious creature when it’s alive?
For that matter, what exactly is an oyster anyway?
An oyster is a bivalve mollusk (mollusk is a large group of invertebrate animals including things like snails, octopus, and squid). Our native oyster around Beaufort, along the entire coast of North Carolina, and on most of the North American east coast and Gulf of Mexico is known as the:
…or The eastern oyster, the Atlantic oyster, the Virginia oyster, and probably a few others. But by whatever name, the oyster is part of our coastal history and we should very much hope, part of our future (for reasons other than just the joy of consuming them with friends on a sunny day beside the water).
Well, the North Carolina Coastal Federation gives us three good reasons why the oyster and its survival are important, and the reasons are known affectionately as the three “F”s:
Food – Oysters support a viable commercial and recreational fishery that is an important part of North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Oyster reefs support the production of more crabs and finfish valued at over $62 million annually.
Filter – As filter feeders, oysters remove harmful pollutants, sediment and excess algae from the water. An adult is capable of filtering between 15-35 gallons of water a day. As oysters filter, they are also are providing an important link in the estuarine food chain by transferring nutrients from the surface (plankton) to the bottom (benthos).
Fish Habitat – Oyster reefs provide essential habitat for a diverse collection of aquatic animals, including many important commercial and recreational fish species. One healthy oyster reef can be home to more than an estimated 300 different adult and juvenile organisms including southern flounder, shrimp, clams and blue crabs.
Increasing the action of those three “Fs” could very easily make our world a better place to be, make places like Beaufort even more healthy and safer for the future, and could keep folks like us in those wonderful oysters!
So, read a little about oyster shell recycling in North Carolina, and enjoy an oyster!
And remember to: