Oyster Myths & Truths, The Kumiai

First, I have to apologize for some of the grammar in my last post.  I'm kind of a pedantic asshole that corrects others' misuse of adverbs and "who/whom."  So, when I went back through and saw a "your" instead of "you're" and a "to" instead of "two," you can imagine my embarrassment.  I chalk it up to writing it in the Union Square Apple Store, Hank Moody style, but there's still no excuse.  I guess it's not a grammar blog, though.  Anyway, this one's coming from Taqueria Guadalajara, since I don't have the interwebs at home.

Oyster Myths

Only eat Oysters in months with an "R"
In my experience, once September and October hit, Oyster consumption by the elderly skyrockets.  I don't know any figures, but the number of Stewing and Frying Oysters that I see being sold is borderline absurd.  It makes me picture lovely little old ladies whipping up a century-old Oyster Stew recipe or a mayo lathered Oyster Po'Boy just before sitting down to a Murder She Wrote/Matlock combo.  This is the case because, after a long and bivalve bereft summer, they can finally eat oysters again.

There are a few reasons for this only months with "R's" myth.  One, reliable, refrigerated shipping is less than a century old.  Fall and Winter months are chilly and good for shipping a product that needs to be kept in at least sub 45 degree temperatures.  And, yes, they all have "R's."  You definitely wouldn't have found me lining up for oysters anywhere on a hot, 19th century June day.  However, nowadays, food shipments are regulated and reliable.  Happily take Grandma's advice and her $7.50 birthday check, just not her advice on Oysters.

Two, Oysters, like bears, fatten up and hibernate over the winter, in a sense.  This means that a January Oyster is going to be sweet, plump, and delicious.  A June Oyster, that's exhausted its reserves, is going to be watery and bland.  Not bad, but just not at its peak.  Seasonality.  Also, many Oysters, depending on temperatures, spawn during the Summer.  This can make for an overly creamy, unpalatable, mushy mess.  However, many aquaculturists account for this, and breed/farm accordingly.  Check out the Summer Ices from British Columbia.    

Finally, bacteria like warmer waters.  Red tides and other bacteria breed more quickly and abundantly over the Summer due to higher water temperatures.  However, U.S. regulatory agencies keep very close eyes on these situations and aquafarms are held to high standards.  Very few cases of infection from sea bacteria actually occur every year.  You're probably at higher risk eating peanut butter or spinach.

I say, so long as you know the facts, enjoy Oysters all year round.

Oysters are an Aphrodisiac 
Sorry folks, a dozen oysters won't get you laid, through some physiological reaction at least.  There is some truth behind it, though.  Oysters are high in Zinc, which, when at a deficient level, can cause male impotence.  Zinc does aid in the production of testosterone, but not to the degree where Alpine Bays are going to replace those little blue diamonds or Totten Intlets will be on the MLB's banned substance list.  The sexual connotation with Oysters is an idea (a damn good one, in my opinion).  There is something to sucking back those sweet morsels in a romantic, seaside setting.  They make you feel good.  Hey, there's even an undeniable, well, "vulvic" likeness in an opened Oyster.  I like to believe the Aphrodisiac myth.  Makes the whole experience more exciting.

Oysters(Shellfish) are high in Cholesterol 
Untrue.  Shrimp, lobster, king crab, and squid are all high in cholesterol.  Oysters, however, have been unfairly lumped into this group.  They are, in fact, very low in cholesterol and a very healthy food.

Oysters are Endangered
Wild Oysters were endangered, and now are mostly decimated.  You can find Wild Oysters, but they are harvested in highly supervised areas where the local agencies keep a close eye on populations.  95% of the oysters you eat are aquacultured, and that's not a bad thing.  It's not like wild salmon vs. farmed salmon.  You never know what you might get with a Wild Oyster in flavor and quality; but a Farmed Oyster is specifically bred, raised, harvested and culled for your plate.  Oyster "husbandry" is a great success.  Farmed Bivalves are actually under the "Best Choices" category on the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List.

You may find a Pearl when eating your Oysters
"Hey buddy, you find any pearls today." "Haha, unfortunately not sir."  What I'm really thinking is, "if I had a nickel for every time...well, I could fill the base of a tube sock with them and..."  Catch my drift?  I get the individual is joking, and it may make your friends chuckle, but it's not cute and kind of annoying to hear day after day.  I'm sure everyone knows you're not going to get a pearl in your Oyster, but some specifics couldn't hurt.  The species of Oysters we eat do not make pearls.  Well, not the kind you give/get on your 12th or 30th anniversary (yea, I looked that one up).  Most Oysters consumed raw are farmed under conditions preventing pearl making.  If it does happen, the pearls usually come out looking like nasty little garbanzo beans, bee-bees, or rabbit pellets.  Most mollusks can make pearls, since it it is defense mechanism to a foreign material in its flesh.  However, very few are prized.  Pearl making oysters (prized ones) are a South Asian species that we do not eat in the U.S.  A good portion of these are artificially planted and farmed, as well.  I have, however, heard stories of people finding very rare and highly valued pearls.  But hey, I've also heard stories about Nessie and Big Foot, so who knows.

Oyster Truths

Oysters are Alive
I damn well hope so.  Any shellfish has to be cooked, frozen, or consumed raw while still alive or recently killed.  You never want to eat dead shellfish.  Since shellfish has little to no fat and is almost pure protein, they begin to deteriorate very quickly once dead and will produce dangerous bacterias.  How do you know it's alive?  Well, with any Oyster, if its bill is open and does not close when tapping it, it's dead.  It will also make a hollow sound when tapped.  Toss it and move on.  I hate to pander, but, don't freak out about the whole alive thing, either.  The Oyster does die when it's cut and opened, and, not much of a nervous system is going on anyway.  Pain free for them and guilt-free for us, in my opinion.

Oysters are Good for You
I don't eat healthily, at all.  What I want, when I want.  There's a fatty 1000+ calorie burrito sitting in front of me as I'm writing this.  Intemperance of youth, I suppose.  I'm sure once it starts catching up to me, I'll take action, hopefully.  However, as yet another selling point for Oysters, they're very healthy.  Whether calorie counting, vitamin seeking, or low-fatting it, Oysters deliver.  A dozen raw Oysters has around 100 calories, 120 at most.  They are very high in protein and extremely low in saturated fats.  On board of the new omega-3 fatty acids craze?  Well, Oysters are packing those, as well (not like a piece of salmon, though).  Raw food movement?  Check.  Whenever something is cooked, it begins to lose some of its naturally occurring nutrients.  The longer you cook it, the more you lose.  A raw Oyster can deliver a hefty amount of vitamins A, B, C, D, calcium, iron, and zinc for its tiny size.  Eat them.  Delicious and healthy.  

Oysters are good for Hangovers
Oh thank god yes.  Among a number of reasons hangovers occur, one is a Vitamin B deficiency.  Our little friends are packed full of Vitamin B.  It's actually a nice perk of being a shucker.  Rough night doesn't have to equal a rough day when I go into work.  Pop a couple of them open and I'm feeling great again.  My ideal Sunday, after a rough Saturday night, is a dozen Wellfleets, greasy bacon and eggs, and, of course, a few bloody marys.  I'd put Hair-of-the-Dog under my truths, too.

Oysters help the Environment
 Okay, this one legitimately deserves its own post.  But, I'm going to use it as a quick transition into the following link.  Oysters filter around 50 gallons of water a day.  They are natural water filterers, cleaning up pollution in numerous bays around the States.  Oyster revival, sanctuary, recovery, protection etc. movements have started picking up in New York, Boston, and the Chesapeake.  Well, here's one of yours, San Francisco.

The Watershed Project

I know how it's the San Franciscan way to drink, eat, and feel good about it since your helping a cause (that's not a jab, I'll be in attendance).  So, Bubbles & Bivalves will be right up your charitable alleys.  The idea's that The Watershed Project is trying to restore a natural Oysterbed of Olympias (the only native oyster) and keep it protected in the Northern San Francisco bay.  Optimistically, it will be the first of many.  The author who inspired much of my interest in Oysters will be speaking, as well.   I look forward to seeing you there.

My Favorite Oyster Right Now

Kumiai - this gigas Oyster comes from Guerrero Negro Lago by Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.  Don't freak out cause it's from Mexico.  I hate that xenophobic bullshit Americans have.  We're the ones producing more e. coli in our factory farms than any other country.  Plus, it's not like it's coming from the favelas of DF.  It's grown in pristine, biosphere reserve managed waters.   However, aside from that, I'm furious that I just found this Oyster and did not know about it when I was in Ensenada 9 months ago.  It would have been on the top of my list of places to visit.  Also, fun little aside, it's named after the Kumiai people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Baja Peninsula. 

It's medium sized, deep cupped, has very firm, plump flesh and an excellent alkaline texture that stays on your palate.  Some people have found it overwhelmingly briny, but you and I both know they didn't chew.  It is very briny up front, very, which I happen to like.  But it's also a happy marriage between East coast salinity and West coast sweetness.  Once you've savored that ocean-fresh brine, bite and a world of cucumber fruitiness comes flying in.  If you see them, try them.

I've got a review on a Mission District Oyster House, Hog & Rocks, coming soon.  In addition, please send me suggestions for places to try out in the Bay Area.  I'm new and would love some ideas.

The SF Oyster Nerd


  1. Hey Oysternerd, thnx for visiting Peek & Eat! Have you seen my new blog-- Oyster lovers unite! Happy Shucking :) J

  2. Hello fellow oyster lover! I came across your blog while googling Kumiai oysters - this is an excellent post and I really like your writing. I'm going to a new oyster bar in LA this weekend and will definitely be trying the Kumiais!

    1. Thanks for reading and enjoy the Kumiais. They're delicious!

  3. Are my oysters still good to bbq if they a few of them were submerged in ice water for overnight. I bought them on Tuesday. Im bbq them tomorrow.

    1. So long as they don't stay open upon tapping, they're fine. If there is a noticeably off smell, I wouldn't eat them either. My guess is that they're perfectly fine, though. Garlic parsely butter and bbq sauce is my favorite. Enjoy!

  4. Thanks for the info. I was just at the fish market (Catalina Offshore, the best in San Diego) and picked some up.

  5. Great! It sounds good. Thanks for sharing..

  6. yes they do spawn int he summer the R thing is not about safety, more "do you like oysters that are pussy mucus".

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. though some are good year round, like the Kumiai, yum! still l like them *better* in winter