Complex Made Simple

Pearls of the ocean

Oysters are the food of the gods. Creamy mouthsful eaten raw, they pack nutrients like zinc and iron. They’re good for the ocean too.

Oysters are self-sustaining and improve water quality. Need more incentive? Scientists say Casanova, who allegedly breakfasted on 50 oysters a day, was right all along about that aphrodisiac thing. Cultivated in the waters of the Atlantic (about 85 percent of U.S. oysters) and Pacific “today, virtually all oysters are fanned,” says Rowan Jacobsen, author of “A Geography of Oysters.”

The harvest increases each year to satisfy a growing national appetite. Like a fine wine, oysters have a flavor profile determined by their species and nature of the water they grow in. On the East Coast, look for sweet Wellfleets from Cape Cod, and briny Olde Salts from the Chesapeake Bay. And, the rule of consuming oysters only in months that contain the letter “r” – i.e., never in summer – has been shucked. “We eat them safely year-round,” says Jacobsen.


© 2015 National Geographic Traveler, distributed by the New York Times Syndicate.