For The Love of The Oyster
Did you know that prime oyster season is from September-April?? Fact. True story. I was just asking this question a couple weeks ago when I stumbled upon some restaurant literature that answered my question for me. I love that this is the “season” since it’s eight months of the year and really encompasses three seasons. Another easy way to remember: you can eat oysters in any month spelled with an “r”.
I’m not quite sure where, when or how my fervent love for oysters began. It’s sad, I’m trying to recall “my love at first sight” memory, and I can’t. But I can tell you some of my absolute fondest memories since then and as of late most have occurred at The Lighthouse, a great restaurant trove in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Lighthouse believes that an oyster list should encompass a fairly wide array from the country. They also believe that oysters don’t need to be more than $1 if you can make it out to eat before 7:30. And they also believe in taking time to write up accurate, cute, and dare I say, intellectual descriptions for their list in house. They just get it.
Here’s an example of one of their lists from this past weekend:
Ah, I love it. Such a delight to read and see while I slurp a tray down with the best mignonette I’ve also tasted to accompany the slippery suckers.
What is all this harping on oysters leading to? Well, I discovered that there’s an organization out there that is trying to do right by them, and bring them back to NYC. Back in the 19th century, NYC used to be thought of the premier place to source oysters from. But by 1906, the Harbor was dried up and lifeless. For the next 50 years, until the 1971 Clean Water Act, it was toxic, literally. But now with more than 30 years of clean water under the city’s belt, Billion Oyster Project (BOP) makes aims to change the oyster course in 20 years time. It’s an initiative to restore one billion oysters back in the New York Harbor over the next two decades, and in the process, educate the thousands of young folks in the city about local marine environment.
So BOP is partnering with restaurants, like The Lighthouse, and others in Manhattan, to turn over used oyster shells back to the program so then be reused at the curing site. The next steps are even cooler in science fan world terms: Shells are seeded with oyster larvae that are produced at the Harbor School Oyster Hatchery. Newly set “spat on shells” are transferred to Harbor Schools’ oyster nurseries and small gardens where they continue to grow. Fully formed adult oysters are transferred to reef restoration sites where they can eventually form self-sustaining populations.
Also in support of the project, each year there’s a slew of September oyster parties, festivals, etc. that I somehow missed out on this year. No more! Starting next year, come September 2016, I’ll be ready for Oyster Week.
Here’s hoping that 2030 dreams due come true, and NYC will have its own varieties once more and over 100 acres of oyster reefs and one billion live NYC oysters!
First image from here.