Does this Month have an R? The Oyster Rule of Thumb

When you vacation at the beach, one of the highlights is the food. Fresh – and we mean straight off the boat fresh – seafood is available most everywhere you turn. From Wrightsville Beach to Topsail, then down to Carolina Beach and Kure, amazing local and wild seafood is easily available.

Of course, everything has its season (the bible even says so!). And if you love raw oysters, that season is September to April.
If you’re a foodie, you know that timing is everything. And you likely know that you don’t eat wild oysters in May, June, July, or August. Those are the only months that don’t have an R in them, and that’s the key to remembering the “ok” months.

Of course, most oysters don’t spell, very well (they keep leaving the 1st R out of February) and very few have calendars. So, what’s with the R months?

As you likely can tell, this oyster eating ‘rule’ has something to do with warm water. You see, oysters spawn in the warmer months. Spawning causes them to become fatty, watery, soft, and less flavorful. 

But that’s not the only reason. Lately, a particular concern has arisen about bacteria that is being found in some seafood during the summer months. That list includes oysters, along with tuna, mackerel, and other favorites. 

Summer Vacationers: Don’t Fret!

If you spend much time googling this rule, you’re sure to find that mussel and oyster growers poo-poo the idea that there’s a hard season for eating raw oysters. There are two ways around this:

  1. Buy farm raised oysters. There has been a big uptick in oyster farming on the North Carolina Coast. These farmed versions are having big environmental impacts, improving our water quality while helping protect against sea level rise.
    Unlike many types of farm-raised fish, oysters that are grown on farms eat and develop practically the same way as wild oysters. They are not given any kind of growth supplements or antibiotics to prevent diseases and it actually would be impossible to do so as oyster must grow naturally in open water. These are every bit as safe, and every bit as tasty as wild.
  2. Cook your oysters! The “R” month ‘rule’ pertains to raw oysters. If you’ve never tried grilled oysters or oyster stew, you’re in for a treat.
When you get your vacation rental at the beach, be sure to ask if it comes with a grill (most Sea Scape rentals do). And then go shopping! Some of the best places to buy fresh oysters to prepare at your beachfront rental home are:

Carolina/Kure Beaches: Blackburn Brothers; Seaview Crab Company; Ocean Seafood

Wrightsville BeachMotts Channel Seafood; the Wrightsville Beach Farmers’ Market

Topsail BeachLewis Seafood; Atlantic Seafood

And if you’re renting from Sea Scape Properties, just ask us for an Oyster Knife! We’ll make sure you’re well-armed for getting that pesky but sweet NC oyster out of its shell. 
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