August 5th is National Oyster Day and I am calling on all of you experienced and novice ostreaphiles alike to come out and feast on nature's most delectable bi-valve. Oysters are celebrated for their fascinating, incomparable flavor, but did you know that getting your fill of oysters actually helps clean the Chesapeake Bay and other natural estuaries? Thanks to agencies such as the Oyster Recovery Program, the more oysters that are eaten, the more oysters get planted for the following year. The Oyster Recovery Program builds reefs out of recycled oyster shells for new oysters on which to grow, just like they would naturally in the wild, and the more oysters you eat, the more incentive farmers have to increase their crop for next year. This equals more oysters in the water, making for cleaner water for all species.
Oysters are a vital part of our estuaries and the natural environment. They can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Clean water is very important for the growth and development of other plant and animal species such as eelgrass, bluefish, crabs, rockfish, trout, and bass. Oysters have been consumed and adored by man for over 10,000 years, but just in the past 200 years pollution and over-harvesting has decimated North American oyster populations. We have depleted natural oyster beds to a point in which it is critical to focus a concerted effort to replenishing our waters with the life saving and life giving shellfish. There is no better way to do this than to eat more oysters!
Whether you prefer the cold, crisp, salty meats of Canada; the clam-like, briny, coppery, firm meats of New England; the buttery, crab-like meats of the South; or the algal, melon-sweet, plump meats of the West - there is definitely an oyster out there to suit your tastes. This week you can try your hand at East Coast and West Coast varieties at BlackSalt Fish Market, Republic of Takoma Park, Blacks Bar and Kitchen, and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. BlackSalt Fish Market is even offering a New Zealand oyster that is considered a delicacy amongst connoisseurs, a rare find on this side of the planet. So come and celebrate the oyster on National Oyster Day by eating a few dozen. If you are like me, you might want to extend the holiday and make it National Oyster Month. The Bay would thank you for it.