October 12, 2021
‘Tis the season! It’s NC Oyster Week! This time of year is great for fishing, bonfires, and local oyster roasts.
While seemingly unassuming, these bivalved creatures are vital for many aspects of North Carolina’s livelihood. First and foremost, they are a keystone species. Keystone species are essential for ecosystem function, AKA remove the oysters, and the entire ecosystem drastically changes. In addition to being keystone species, they are also filter feeders. They improve water quality and clarity, effectively moving Nitrogen through waterways. Furthermore, oysters are great for our economy. They generate nearly $30 million to our state economy, and provide many jobs. Additionally, the mere presence of oysters generates another $62 million as many other fish rely on oyster beds to survive.
Due to this shellfish’s marked significance for coastal community, sustainability is key. This includes recycling oyster shells to create new oyster beds and reefs, and responsible consumption.
Oysters can be enjoyed from the wild or from farm-raised sources. North Carolina has plenty of both, about an even split of the two, actually! The wild caught oyster season runs from mid October – late March unless closed earlier by proclamation. For the remainder of the year, delicious farm-raised oysters can be enjoyed.
Did you know: while our location is known for our gorgeous Atlantic beaches, that this isn’t actually where the oysters thrive? They flourish in the brackish, shallower waters of our surrounding sounds and estuaries. These varying environmental factors bring about varying sizes and flavors (salty, sweet, nutty).
With all that’s said, it should come to no surprise that our barrier island attracts oyster lovers. So much so that there is an official “NC Oyster Trail”. This was the brainchild of North Carolina Sea Grant and North Carolina Coastal Federation in partnership with the NC Shellfish Growers Association. The Oyster Trail features local farmers including: Cape Hatteras Oyster Company, Slash Creek Oysters, and Sticky Bottom Oysters on Hatteras Island; and Savage Inlet Oysters
What’s your favorite way to enjoy these local delicacies?
Anyway ya can get ‘em – raw, roasted, Rockefeller. There are so many ways to enjoy!
Fun fact: If you shuck an oyster and encounter a tiny crab, then congratulations! You just found yourself some good luck! Folklore suggests the fortune of finding such an oyster. The juvenile crab has sought out the oyster for protection, and has called its shell home (and brought you some good fortune!)
- Raw on the half-shell. Recommended pairing with cocktail sauce, a fresh squeeze of a lemon, horseradish, or mignonette. If it’s your first time trying them raw, may we suggest a side of crackers? 😉
- Rockefeller. Very popular and mouth-watering. Served with butter, scallions, parsley, bread crumbs, Pernod, and then baked or broiled on the half shell.
- Roasted. Toss them on the grill or pop them in the oven and serve on a garlicky crostini for ultimate flavor.
- Stew. If you’re looking for a hearty way to warm up on a gloomy fall day, and want to be reminded of your favorite place, then give oyster stew a try. There are varieties of recipes and way to serve this up, but we love it most with a creamy, buttery base.
- Fried. Drop them in oil and serve them up with fries (think fish and chips) or plop them a roll and make a sandwich — or more colloquially known as a po’boy.
- Shooter. Not for the faint of heart. Yep, you can have your oysters and drink them too. We don’t necessarily recommend this, but hey, it is a way that people get their oyster fix.
So now what? Well, pack the car and hit the beach to try some for yourself! Southern Shores Realty not only has a blog detailing all of the local seafood markets, but we are also happy to assist you with accommodations.
Background image from Island Creek Oysters
Published by Kelly Knutson, Tuesday, October 12, 2021.