Food and Drink October 12, 2011
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Not just for the rich and shellfish

Eating raw oysters is a uniquely invigorating experience. It seems that we can taste the elements they contain: zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium. And no other food conjures up a physical feature of the Earth as strongly as a bracing, salty, tangy oyster: the essence of the sea in edible form.

Shells found on archaeological sites indicate that people were eating oysters 6,000 years ago. For much of recorded history they have been regarded a simple form of sustenance, punctuated by occasional periods in which they reached the status of delicacy. In Britain they shifted from stomach-filler to luxury food with the arrival of the Romans, largely disappeared from the diet after they left, before returning to favour sometime around the eight century.

By Victorian times, pickled oysters were a common food of the poor in London. The era of cheap oysters came to an end quite abruptly after oyster beds became exhausted due to over fishing and pollution.

Oysters are members of the family Ostreidae and the common European oyster is named Ostrea edulis. Oysters are bivalve molluscs found near the bottom of the sea in coastal areas. The upper shell (valve) is flattish and is attached by an elastic ligament hinge to the lower, bowl-shaped shell.

Oysters become sexually mature at around three years old and may switch between male and female several times during their life span. Oysters are high in protein and low in fat. They are rich in zinc and contain many other minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, iodine, magnesium and selenium.

As you already know, oysters can now be obtained throughout the year but are usually better outside of their spawning period (when the waters are colder) - so the best time to eat them to eat them is now. Loch Fyne have nearly 40 restaurants around the UK, why not treat yourself to oysters this evening?


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