Now that the whole world is on a standstill, there’s no better way to be socially and environmentally responsible than to shuck that oyster at home. With a little chew and slurp on this delicacy you are en route to saving the environment - the keyword here my friend is Farmed.
Oyster farming is an aquaculture that requires zero-input. Oysters are filter feeders that are usually grown in bags or racks, feeding on the planktons within seawater that flush through them by the incoming tide, making oysters one of the most sustainable food sources. These incredible bottom of the food chain shellfish do much more for us than we know. A farmed oyster can filter and purify up to 50 gallons of water (190liters) every day, acting as the bay's most effective filtration system.
Oyster absorbs the carbon in water that would otherwise cause the ocean to be acidic, turning it into calcium carbonate for strengthening their shells. As colonies, they resemble rock-like reefs that not only provide shelter for marine animals and plant but also our shorelines from erosion. Its most unique feat, however, is sequestering nitrogen from the surface water, a notorious greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere and 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Oysters are generally rich in minerals such as zinc, copper, iodine, and magnesium. However, the complexity of its umami lies in the characteristics of the water and organic matters that imprint on them, giving them a unique merroir just like wine terroir. Oysters take at least 18 -24 months to grow and those grown closer to the ocean will taste brinier while those further up the freshwater river will have more mineral pack.
The sweetness we taste depends on the size of the muscle, farmers can 'control' this by using a special method to make oyster exercise and get their muscle working. An easy way to guess the taste of oyster is looking at it, grey ones will taste briny while the white, in my opinion, has the best mouthfeel, tasting sweet and creamy.
So the next time you slurp that farmed oyster naked or with a squeeze of lemon, know that you are indulging into one of the world’s most sustainable food sources and feel proud for supporting farmers whose aquaculture practice keeps the bay's most effective filtration system running that comes with multifold of positive impacts.
Addicted and want more? Consider volunteering and get involved in oyster restoration projects near you. Not only does this safeguards important ecological and economic resource but it create jobs for the local communities.
Cover photo credit: The Oyster Man
Words by Buranee Soh