Oysters are divisive food. Many love them, many loath them. Some eat them raw, from saltwater to ice laden tray as quickly as possible, others like them baked, broiled or barbequed.
But oysters are having a hard time. We are not the only ones being affected by climate change. As the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the oceans are absorbing some of the CO2 and become more acidic. The reason that this acidification is such a problem for the oysters is it inhibits the oyster larvae ability to build their shells.
This acidification means that less free-spawning oyster larvae are naturally settling on oyster shells. The decrease in these ‘natural sets’ as sources of oyster larvae means that growers are becoming more and more reliant on the hatcheries.
The hatcheries themselves are not immune to this problem and are affected as ocean water is often used. One way in which oyster farms are dealing with this problem is by using an antacid. This NBC science article by John Roach talks about the why and how of antacid use in oyster farming. Another way that oyster farmers are dealing with this acidification is by moving their hatcheries. A Washington state family has now moved half their production to Hawaii, you can read about their story in this engrossing Seattle Times feature Sea Change.
Ultimately the only long-term solution to
this problem is by addressing the real ecological issues of climate change and
ocean acidification. Some solutions John Roach identifies include planting
native sea grasses and laying down shell beds. A recent Kickstarter project 3-D
Ocean Farming: Saving our Seas by Bren Smith raised the funds to scale up the
integration of seaweed into their shellfish farm. This project hopes to both
produce yummy edible seaweeds and to work to restore the ocean (through deacidification,
growing biofuel and habitat restoration).
I have always loved raw oysters, they are an acquired taste my family taught me to love early on. I love raw oysters so much the thought never even occurred to me to try them cooked. In fact the idea of baking an oyster seemed completely foreign to me. Give me buck a shuck and a glass of sparkling wine any day of the week.
My boyfriend on the other hand, even though he was raised next to the ocean, had never had oysters and the idea of them pretty much grossed him out. So I tried to get him on board with the raw ones, by buying a dozen at our local butcher and shucking them ourselves. Unfortunately that didn’t go exactly as planned as a chunk of raw oyster flew out during a violent moment of shucking right into his mouth. He was unprepared and suffice it to say he was over the whole idea of them. I thought it would be oysters for one for the foreseeable future, which isn’t the cruelest punishment I confess, more for me.
We debated the oyster appeal issue with our neighbours who sided with Zach on the raw = gross opinion. They shared with us their secret for making oysters agreeable for every palate. They grill their oysters on the barbeque until they pop and then pour in a melted mixture of garlic and strong blue cheese. While in New Orleans I heard all about Oysters Rockefeller and other baked oyster delicacies and while I would never doubt the brilliance of Cajun/creole cuisine I still have my doubts.
We did try throwing a few on a hot grill and waiting for them to pop. We dipped the cooked oysters in melted butter and I have to say they were pretty good. BUT they were nothing close to the awesomeness of a raw oyster in my eyes, nothing can compete with that slimy deliciousness.