If you mention oysters to a South Carolina local, we tend to imagine the wintery weather surrounded by tables toppling over with succulent, steamed clusters. That’s because South Carolina’s season for wild oyster harvesting is typically October 1 – May 15, per South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) guidelines. However, new laws and farming methods are allowing for oyster availability year-round. Yes, you read that correctly – there’s now a sustainable way to get fresh, local Lowcountry oysters every month of the year!
In the summer, it’s all about the single lifestyle – of oysters, that is! This new summer market affords more economic opportunity for our area and gives South Carolina chefs the ability to showcase local product year-round. Here are a few things to know about these delectable delights:
- Leave it to the professionals! The “Average Joe” can’t just harvest just any oyster he sees whenever he’d like – you need to have a specialized permit! In South Carolina, oyster farms are required to follow very strict regulations set by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), looking at water quality to oyster temperature and everything in between.
- Oyster farms use specialized seed to grow the oysters, called triploids. These oysters start their lives in hatcheries and then grow in the salty creeks of the Lowcountry. Triploids get their name because they have three sex chromosomes instead of two, which makes them sterile. This allows them to put all their energy into growing so they reach maturity in less than two years.
- Farmed oysters spend their entire lives underwater in specialized oyster cages. They can constantly feed and filter water this way – a major difference from wild oyster clusters that are exposed to the ever-changing tides.
- Fresh is best! There’s nothing like tasting a delicious, salty, hand-raised oyster on ice fresh from the water that day!
Want to give these singles a try? Celebrate National Oyster Day (August 5) and treat yourself to these summertime singles farmed and served by our Good Catch partners. When you’re at the raw bar, be sure to ask for them by name:
- Barrier Island Oyster Company’s “Sea Clouds”
- Toogoodoo Oyster Company’s “Toogoodoozies”
- Lowcountry Oyster Company’s “Lowcountry Cups”
After you enjoy local oyster clusters or singles, don’t forget to recycle those shells to help maintain future habitats for oysters! Check out SCDNR’s website to find your closest recycling location.