Most of us New Englanders know that the old adage that oysters should only be eaten in months that have the letter “r” in them is not really true: we enjoy oysters here all year round.
The saying originated before refrigeration was common. It made sense then because oysters would keep longer out of the water in the colder months. Now, with refrigeration available and safe-handling practices well-understood, there’s no need to limit our oyster-eating to the “r” months.
Still, it turns out oysters really are superior––plump, firm, and delicious––from fall to spring. Here’s why: May to August is prime time for oyster reproduction. And when an oyster is putting all its energy into spawning, it can become a little scrawny. Some say oysters are a little softer and less flavorful then, too. In addition, problems such as red tide, which can harm shellfish, occur in the warmer months––though as long as your oysters are harvested by a commercial fisherman, who’ll be first to know if an advisory is issued, oysters are safe to eat year round.
The recreational oystering season opens in October in Massachusetts and closes in April. This is to allow oysters to reproduce and continue to be abundant in certain areas. Commercial fisherman can harvest and grow oysters year round. We’re proud to say the oysters for our stores and clambakes come from right here on Cape Cod, from Wayne Hayes of Wayne Hayes Seafood. He grows and harvests his oysters in Barnstable Harbor.