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Oysters and R Months

j
Jambalaya Jun 2, 2003 02:45 PM

At the risk of re-igniting this old debate I am going to put this question to the board. I realize the old wives tale/urban legend said you were not supposed to eat them in a month with no R supposedly from a refrigeration standpoint. Due to the wonders of modern technology we really don't have to worry about that angle any longer.

One of my friends who likes cooking as much as I do and is a pretty well read cook was claiming another reason for eating them only in an R month. Supposedly the summer is when they are mating, reproducing or whatever you call it that oysters do to make little oysters. During this period the little devils are not as meaty as they would be at the other times of the year when they are just kicked back, hanging around the bay, not getting into trouble. Does anyone know if there is any truth to this line of thinking? I have been in New Orleans eating oysters during each of the 4 seasons and haven't really noticed much difference. I'm not going to stop eating them at this time of year, but am just curious if there is any firm scientific basis to this theory.

Thanks

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  1. s
    sgirl RE: Jambalaya Jun 2, 2003 03:00 PM

    Yes, that is exactly why one doesn't eat oysters during 'R' months...the mating/having kiddies process makes the oysters mushy - not very nice to eat!

    7 Replies
    1. re: sgirl
      s
      Sharuf RE: sgirl Jun 2, 2003 03:27 PM

      I once had fried oysters in the summertime at a restaurant near Tomales Bay (that's the drowned end of the San Andreas Fault, North of San Francisco). This is an area that has oyster farms, so I assumed what I had were local and recently shucked.

      They were so mushy and milky I couldn't finish them.

      1. re: Sharuf
        c
        Carrie RE: Sharuf Jun 2, 2003 03:47 PM

        Totally agree with everyone else. It is the mating that does them in during these months.

        The old wives' tales, BTW, were not wives' tales at all. It also had to do with the fact that transporting oysters (in the olden days) during the summer months made them highly innedible.

        Remember two years ago -- a bunch of folks died eating summer oysters that came out of the South America. (I don't recall if the oysters came from the Pacific side of Mexico or the Atlantic side, but I recall that all had slight liver ailments that precluded them to the disorder and the oysters helped kill them).

        1. re: Carrie
          p
          Persynna RE: Carrie Jun 2, 2003 06:06 PM

          No, the "R" month thing isn't an old wives tale at all, and not only about refrigeration.

          I had a bad oyster experience last August: I awoke at 6am in agony, and when I'd recovered enough to be vertical again, I did a little web research to see if I was about to die.

          In the process, I remember reading that food poisoning from oysters is caused by micro organisms that flourish when the water temperature is warmer.

          1. re: Persynna
            j
            Jack In Louisiana RE: Persynna Oct 6, 2003 06:06 AM

            I'm from South Louisiana and have picked, shucked and eaten many an oyster. Down here the "R" month concept does not fully work. The concept (I've heard) was developed up north in the colder regions of the U.S. People have mistakenly adapted it down here. The best months are normally Nov., Dec., and January. In February they start to become milky and loose their firmness. If I’m going to eat raw oysters I’m very selective about where the oysters are picked. For me it’s Empire and Grand Isle Louisiana; these areas have good water flow and salt content is high. I’ll also wait until the daily high temperature is at least 45 degrees for several days. Eating raw oysters can be very dangerous.

            Link: http://www.cookinglouisiana.com/

          2. re: Carrie
            p
            Persynna RE: Carrie Jun 2, 2003 06:08 PM

            No, the "R" month thing isn't an old wives tale at all, and not only about refrigeration.

            I had a bad oyster experience last August: I awoke at 6am in agony, and when I'd recovered enough to be vertical again, I did a little web research to see if I was about to die.

            In the process, I remember reading that food poisoning from oysters is caused by micro organisms that flourish when the water temperature is warmer.

        2. re: sgirl
          l
          ld RE: sgirl Jun 2, 2003 03:49 PM

          OK. Now I'm thoroughly confused. We're to eat oysters in months WITH an "R" or WITHOUT an "R"?

          1. re: ld
            w
            Wisco RE: ld Jun 2, 2003 04:21 PM

            Oysters R in season. The old rule was to only eat them in R months, which amounts to not eating them May--August.

        3. r
          Ruth Lafler RE: Jambalaya Jun 2, 2003 07:20 PM

          Spawning.

          1. k
            Karl S. RE: Jambalaya Jun 2, 2003 07:26 PM

            Well, I just had some magnificent oysters on Massachusetts' North Shore. Our coastal waters are far colder than normal this spring...

            1. j
              Jim H. RE: Jambalaya Jun 2, 2003 09:46 PM

              I was raised on Chesapeake Bay and now live in N. Cal. I love Hog Island oysters, but not out of season. The owners have been arguing with me for years about the "R" thing...they say their cold water makes it OK. Maybe for some, but summer oysters taste milky and bitter to me. I do not eat them or serve them. My cousin has a seafood restaurant in Va Beach and now serves oysters all year round. You guessed it...they are milky and bitter, even when fried. When in Va or Md in the summer, I eat raw clams...MMMMM.

              1. b
                baruch RE: Jambalaya Jun 3, 2003 08:35 AM

                I've also read that with modern farming techniques that you can eat them in R months. Any thoughts on this?

                Personally I try not to eat them as it is nice to eat what is in season not eat indiscriminately beacuase i can. In addition to oysters tasting off due to mating I also feel that we should give them a break and let them mate. There are plenty of other things to eat during this time! Softshells, clams etc etc..

                1 Reply
                1. re: baruch
                  h
                  Hazelhurst RE: baruch Jun 3, 2003 01:09 PM

                  Could not agree more with the notion that we ought to leave them alone but I have sympathy for the guys who are trying to harvest them (and make a living) year round. I stop eating them according to the weather and usually means April (although I had excellent oysters en brochette a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans--that's about as far as it can be pushed, I think). IN the winter I wait for a couple of cold snaps to cool off the water then pay attention to the rainfall---this will rinse them out and cut the saltiness and too much rain means that I wait a week to get the salt back--and where the sack came from. It's a little art of its own and a lot of fun

                2. m
                  Mark Lee RE: Jambalaya Jun 6, 2003 04:42 PM

                  While at least some part of this "rule of thumb" may be based on the fact of the oysters spawning during the warmer months, etc, etc, another issue that is probably of more significance from a health standpoint is the fact that one of the most serious shellfish-related food poisonings, Vibrio vulnificus, is more prevalent in the warmer months, particularly in the Gulf Coast. Although the average joe can probably eat a couple of V. vulnificus-laden specimens and get away with nothing more than a mild case of gastroenteritis, certain people, particularly those with chronic liver disease, can die from infection with this organism, and quite rapidly, I might add. Reports abound of patients with alcoholic liver disease or hepatitis C who die of fulminant septic shock from V. vulnificus infection after a meal of contaminated shellfish.

                  So it's not ALL just a matter of taste! Depending on who you are, your LIFE may be at risk when you sit down to a platter of these babies!

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