We’ve all heard the old adage: it’s best to eat oysters in months with the letter “r” in them. But there’s more to it than that—oysters, like all premium seafood, have an official season.
This year, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division determined that a portion of Alabama’s waters would be opened on Oct. 15 for commercial harvesting of the Eastern Oyster, including Cedar Point Reef in Mobile Bay (know as Zone C to those in the Alabama Gulf Seafood industry).
The opening of oyster season should come as great news to oyster fans, naturally. And they can expect big things this year and in the future; projections have implied that this year’s oyster harvest should be bigger than last year’s successful haul, and there’s a good chance that the numbers will continue to rise in the coming years.
According to Chris Blankenship, director of Marine Resources and program administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, our state’s natural reefs are showing signs of recovery from a 2007 drought throughout the Southeast, and there are many young oysters that look like they’ll be ready for next year’s harvest.
While this is good news for Alabama seafood fans, the excitement doesn’t stop at the state lines. Averaging over one million pounds of harvested oysters annually since the 1880s, Alabama is historically the number one processor of oysters in the United States.
“Fall means oysters to a lot of people,” said Blankenship. “We’re glad the reefs are opening and that there will be men and women working them to put delicious Alabama oysters on the menu.”
Whether you’re a life-long oyster lover or you’re just curious to see how they taste, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of oyster season in Alabama.
From right along the beach to just south of the Tennessee border, there are numerous excellent seafood restaurants throughout the state that get their oysters fresh from Alabama’s Gulf Coast. No matter how you order them—fried, sautéed, steamed, grilled, baked, stuffed, scalloped, or raw with a saltine cracker and a dash of hot sauce—you’re in for an indescribable seafood treat.
But if you’d rather buy your own oysters from one of Alabama’s quality seafood retailers and do the work yourself, prepare for a seafood feast like no other. Try a recipe or two or eat them straight out of the icebox; just make sure you know how to properly shuck an oyster before you take a crack at it.
And if you’re serious about your oysters, head down to Gulf Shores on Nov. 3 for the 5th Annual Oyster Cook-Off at The Hangout, where you can compete with celebrity chefs and well known restaurants from all over the Southeast or just spend the day sampling the some of the most creative oyster concoctions you’ll ever come across.
In Alabama, oysters are more than just a tasty meal—they’re a source of state-wide pride. So don’t be afraid to shell out a few bucks for this unique seafood delicacy while the weather’s just right.