1. Are oysters seasonal, or can you eat them year-round?
Sandy Ingber: “The thought in the past was that only during the “r” months [i.e., months that include the letter r, such as September and October], you would eat oysters. But with the amount of oyster farming that’s been done in America and air freight refrigeration, there are so many oysters available now. I have 30 different oysters in the summer alone on my menu.
“The saying began because oysters spawn during the warm weather. They don’t all spawn at the same time, however, so there are plenty varieties available while others are not. You would not want to eat spawning oysters, which could have big fat bellies and be very, very creamy, or overly dry. Spawning oysters are not harmful to your health—they are just not palatable. Basically you want a beautiful crisp, solid-looking oysters that are full of juice. Not one with a big, fat, creamy belly.”
Todd Mitgang: “It used to be only eat oysters in months that had the letter r in them. Back then you would eat oysters in colder months, when waters were colder. It had to do with some bacterias that could harm the oysters. Now, with the way [oyster farmers] are monitoring and sampling the waters, they are able to keep on top of viruses even in warmer months. If there are harmful bacteria in the water, either harvesters are able to treat them and prevent the oysters from being damaged, or they are aware of it and they won’t be sold to the open market. The waters will then be treated and cleaned up before a new batch of oysters are harvested.
“When people say anything about seasons, I think it has more to do with colder waters—just like the freezer kills bacteria. It has more to do with disease than anything else.”