An oyster’s journey from the waters of the ACE basin to your local raw bar is one of mystery to most people. Did you know that you can take an oyster right out of the water, crack that baby open, and shoot it back? No? You’ve got quite a bit to learn about the lifecycle and cultivation of oysters! Luckily, Lowco isn’t just the provider of the most delicious, fresh oysters in South Carolina; we also happen to be a resource for all things shellfish related. From an oyster’s life cycle to ordering and tasting them, we’ve got you covered!
During a period of 2-3 weeks spanning from July through August, oysters focus all of their energies into spawning. They’ll also be filtering large amounts of food during this time to prepare for the winter months. From August onward, oysters spend their time preparing to face the frigid water temperatures that winter will bring; they’ll fatten up during this time. After spawning, the baby oysters grow for about a year or so before we can even see them! At this point oysters will measure 1- 1.5 inches in length. Oysters are usually ready for market size within 18 months to 2 years.
Oysters that grow naturally will often grow in length, not depth. Cage farming enables oysters to develop deeper “cups”. At the farm, we handle our oysters quite a bit throughout their growth cycle. During the warmer months, we regularly tumble our oysters so that the brittle bits of shell on the baby oyster fall off. This ensures they grow in girth to produce the deeper cups we mentioned before. However, cage-farmed oysters begin as triploid seeds, designed not to breed so that they retain a nice size, shape, and texture year round.
Why has it been said that you can only eat oysters in months that have an “R” in them?
This is because during the summer months, the oysters spawn, become milky, and shrivel up. Using the triploid seeds, farmers can grow and cultivate oysters for year round distribution!
So how do our oysters actually get from farm to table?
Most of the oysters on the half shell you’ll find in a restaurant are 4-5 days old (ew), but that’s where we differ! We leave our oysters in the water’s depths until around 24 hours before we ship them out. We harvest the oysters, place them in climate-controlled packaging, and then ship them out to restaurants and residents across South Carolina!
After reading this post, we hope we’ve dispelled a few myths surrounding oysters and given you a few fun facts for your next get together!