Just as well only 50 percent of people like oysters – it means there are twice as many to eat for the rest of us who love them! And, what’s not to love? Oysters are one of the most nutritionally balanced foods available. Containing protein, lipids and carbohydrates, they are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D. Ideal as part of a low-cholesterol diet, four or five oysters at a sitting (might as well make that half a dozen) supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus.
Today, most oysters are commercially farmed, however, Aboriginals have been eating native oysters for over 50,000 years – just visit any of the beautifully located middens (sites where the debris from eating shellfish has accumulated over time) around Australia – to see the evidence first hand. There are three common edible oysters – the Sydney Rock which is grown along the Eastern seaboard and has a rich creamy texture, the Pacific which is mainly cultivated in the deep, cool waters of Tasmania and has a firm texture and a sweet, creamy, slightly salty flavour, and the native flat oyster which has a distinctive full-bodied taste.
Be my Valentine
Since Roman days oysters have been associated with romance. Today, lovers the world over, still turn to the sultry bivalve to take advantage of its lust-inducing reputation. Little wonder they are the entrée of choice at Sydney restaurants on Valentine’s Day! For many years, the seductive powers of oysters has been attributed to their high zinc content, which is linked to the production of testosterone, but more recently, researchers have found they are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones.
Casanova, the infamous 18th-century lover is said to have breakfasted on 50 oysters at a time.
In America, Colonial settlers would eat oysters by the gross (144), rather than by the dozen and Abraham Lincoln used to throw parties where nothing but oysters was served.
Many members of the oyster family produce a pearl when a foreign object gets stuck inside the shell. But the luminous, iridescent pearls (the valuable ones) are produced by a different kind of mollusk.
How to shuck an oyster
First up, find a thick potholder or tea towel to protect your hand. Then, place the oyster in your palm curved side down. Insert the knife into the soft part at the top right-hand corner of the shell. Push knife down the inside of the oyster about 1/3 of the way to the ‘hinge’ and twist to open. Cut the muscle behind the oyster flesh, remove from lid and place in the bottom shell. Lay shucked oysters flat on a bed of chopped ice to chill, and then serve with lemon wedges and cracked pepper.
Words by KJ Eyre