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Are raw oysters safe to eat in May?

It may sound silly, but I was just told by a Texan that as a rule, folks only ate oysters in the "R" months when they were in season and that the old school safety mentality would dictate that raw oysters could be dangerous this time of year.

When oysters are out of season in Nola, where do they come from? Do people actually avoid eating them raw in the summer? Probably good to know before I gorge on a pile on my first night in Nola!

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  1. i am going to NOLA in june -- and i told people if they need to reach me I will be busy eating oysters.

    i believe this was followed before there was referigeration

    3 Replies
    1. re: radman123

      We eat them year round without any problems. They may get a little "milky" in .August. They pose no grerater health risk in non :R" months.

      1. re: JazzyB

        Worked at a marine lab and know the risks. But more so ... Too many people that have got sick including me from no opened or bad seafood. Never take a chance.

        1. re: JazzyB

          I realize the economics of oystermen needing an income year round but I wish they'd pick up, say, crabbing and leave teh summer oysters alone. They are so much better in winter & I hate to see a plate of July or August oysters that are sacrificied when they'd be SO much better in just a few months.

      2. I grew up in Louisiana and my family has always eaten raw oysters mainly in cooler months, and switched to cooked, fried, broiled etc over the summer. I don't necessarily follow the "R" rule We usually eat them raw until April. They are available in May and June, but not at their prime to say the least. I think everyone has their own opinion about this and it may be hard to get a definitive answer. You will probably be okay to eat them in June, but if it were me I would stick to the cooked variety, as the quality you would anticipate may not be there this time of year. Good luck!

        5 Replies
        1. re: ScarlettNola

          Thanks! We're probably not getting to our FQ hotel until around 10:00 p.m., if all goes as planned tomorrow. Other than Acme, could you recommend any other late night food (that might have oysters and worthy of being one of our 7 Nola meals) in the FQ? I'm surprised that so many restaurants close before 10 p.m.

          1. re: eugenegirl

            Coop's on Decatur generally serves food until midnight. Try the jambalaya. Clover Grill is open all night, but is more "diner food", so Coop's would be my number 1 choice for late night dining in the Quarter.

            1. re: ScarlettNola

              We must be on the same wavelength, because Coop's was my next thought!

            2. re: eugenegirl

              Royal House at 441 Royal has an oyster bar ... relatively new place. Not sure how late they're open but you might give them a call. 528-2601

              1. re: eugenegirl

                This is too late I'm sure, but I'd skip Coop's, Clover Grill as mentioned and La Peniche on Dauphine at Touro is open 24 hours Thurs thru Tues I believe.....

                La Peniche
                1940 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70116

                Clover Grill
                900 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116

            3. Vibrio vulnificu is the bacteria found in oysters that causes illness. It's always present, but studies have shown that it's more prevalent in warmer, summer waters.

              Luckily, cooking the oysters kills off the bacteria.

              Personally, I avoid raw oysters in the summer months. I'm healthy enough that an encounter with the bacteria would just be unpleasant. My fear, though, is that getting sick on oysters might cause me to have a negative, psychological reaction to them in the future. I more afraid of developing an aversion to oysters than I am of the illness itself.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Frolic

                Ha! I hear you on that one. I think I'll stick to my lovely Pacific Northwest oysters when I need to slurp a raw one, for now.

                1. re: eugenegirl

                  I've have your Pacific Northwest oysters. At $2-3$ a piece they're pretty hard to choke down for economic reasons. Pleasant apart from that, though much smaller and less flavorful!

                2. re: Frolic

                  The warmer months definitely make a difference in the oysters. I agree on the psychological effect though. I got sick once and now no matter how good the oysters are, the 1st one is always a bear to get down - I stick with mine charbroiled when I visit my family in the summer months.

                  1. re: Frolic

                    And to be honest, raw oysters just dont taste as good in the summer, following their natural progression of taste. I thad some two nights ago at La Cote, sure they were good, but lacked that salt driven intensity that makes Gulf oysters, gulf oysters.

                    1. re: Frolic

                      Yep, frying kills the vibrio right off. Good excuse to eat fried oyster poboys rather than raw at this time of year.

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        Wrong, it can and may kill off most of the vibrio. Never been proven and in fact has been proven that NOT all the vibrio is killed. So there is still a chance that it is present and during a red tide, warmer waters this can be vary prevalent. Even though the beds are not closed bi valves are susceptible and people with compromised immune systems, or poor health, had hepatitis, liver problems or many other conditions just old age can cause them to become ill and possible death.

                        Why even risk it. I admit to eating them but lately I never take a chance after my friend was deathly ill. 40 and perfectly healthy and it healthy and fresh tasting. Never again.

                        I can cite a few sites state and national tht confirm these finding but I'm not at home so it would be later tonight. But you can look it up and find similar findings.

                        1. re: kchurchill5

                          Red tide? I think you're confused. And proper cooking does eliminate the risk. Improper cooking, of course, does not. I eat them year round, and routinely, with no worries. Points about the varying taste are well made. Also confused about whether the oyster or your friend was 40, healthy, and fresh tasting.

                    2. FL, but ditto on the cooler months fresh, warmer months, I like broasted or grilled. But I do eat raw now and then but usually at a reputable restaurant where the oysters are shipped in, not local. But I have taken a chance and had raw during warmer season. Early May I would think is ok, but use your own judgement

                      1. I have read that oysters are indeed safe to eat year round. It's only that the summer months are their spawning season so the taste and flavor may be less than wonderful..

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Gio

                          No, Gulf oysters don't have a spawning season because the water never gets that cold. They spawn year round.

                        2. Karenia brevis (red tide) can affect not just our area but many gulf coast areas. Also known as Gymnodinium brevis (same red tide) just renamed after Karen Steindinger who did most of the research (hench the name Karenia for Karen.

                          Well, with high concentrations of k brevis and oysters being prone to it, the beds can be closed to harvesting. Nothing to do with taste but possible contamination.

                          Sometimes no red tide no contamination and overall the taste to me doesn't change. But for me I just prefer the cooler months for shellfish. The waters in some of the breeding areas can get up to 90. I just prefer my shellfish in cooler waters. But usually it has to do with the red tide outbreak or something similar.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            casamentos the new orleans ultimate oyster shop closes down for the summer so should you for raw oysters.

                            1. re: joedontexan

                              No raw oysters for me during the warm months and same with mussels unless I know they came from up north which many do in the markets. Just don't take chances

                              Mussels, clams and oysters are bi valves and take in all that toxin during red tides and during any bacteria during warm months, so I just don't take a chance. Appalachicola Bay 95 last year. 91 when I was there in early August. I don't take chances. Get mine from out of state which you can or just wait. I have eaten them ... guilty but if anything always broasted which I shouldn't even done that but I did. I should of just not eaten any.

                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                It just ain't fair to the oyster---or the notion of oysters..to eat them in the heat of the summer. Think of 'em as schmoos--they WANT to sacrifice themselves to your benefit...but pray, let them do so at the top of thier(cold water) game.

                          2. Interesting article from 10/09 NPR Interview with Sal Sunseri of P&J Oysters (been in business 130 years)

                            I'm surprised no one brought up the oysters and whiskey myth...and milk (which negates oyster stew)

                            1. I think that there is a ban on oyster beds at the moment due to the spill. That being said I have a place in Apalachicola and last Saturday they were busy harvesting despite what CNN was saying.

                              All this aside - oysters are in season in the colder months. Oysters are dormant in the late spring and the summer. So while it is no more or less dangerous to eat an oyster in a month where there is no letter "R", oysters in the summer is sort of like a eating a peach in December - they just are not as good. (As I was told by a marine biologist who works with Marine Fisheries)

                              Hope this helps - enjoy NOLA! :)

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: sunsuze

                                I heard this morning that P&J is shucking their last from their beads but will be bringing them in from farther east 'while we can" I think they said the "imported" ones are already shucked. It sounded bleak.

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  I'm amazed... guess I was never sure of the rules, but I was in NOLA this past wkend, and couldn't pass up the chance to try Acme oyster house. The waitress said that they get 'em in daily, such that I was inspired to try em raw. She also said that none of their suppliers in Louisianna have closed yet despite oil spill. Oysters were giant - the size of my rather large hands - and not milky. Does this mean I got some that had comfortably passed their spawn period? They were not as briny as some of the Carlsbad, CA farmed oysters that I had last month.

                                  1. re: yajinang

                                    None of their suppliers had closed? I thought I had read that P&J closed... ACME doesn't get them from P&J?

                                    1. re: yajinang

                                      A friend of mine in The Resataurant Business, told me thathe was strill getting oysters out of the "Houmna area" and was losing money on every one he sold. The problem, I am told, is that the clean, honest, decent folk who can pass the Drug Test that BP insists upon before hiring, are out using their boats to skim and clean. this leaves harvesting in hands that might be, well, suspect. None of this means that teh stuff is bad...there are many controls 'twixt water and plate..but it augurs badly for good pricing.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        Not to mention that your boat has to pass Coast Guard inspection to get oil-skimming work....