Whether you enjoy raw or cooked oysters, the most convenient way to indulge in these salty treats is to sign up for an oyster of the month subscription. The oysters are shipped straight from the water to your door, and most can be stored for up to 10 days, but really, why wait when you can eat them fresh?
“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster,” said Jonathan Swift. No truer words have ever been spoken, but many are grateful to that first man. Though we cannot name the person who so daringly tried the first oyster, we do know where they first dined on them.
According to Anthropologist Curtis Marean of Arizona State University, the first proof found of humans eating oysters was in the caves of Pinnacle Point in South Africa. Because the cave's location is above sea level, it was spared flooding and retained historical evidence of the first seafood dinner, dating back 164,000 years.
Today oysters are enjoyed by many, but at an expensive cost averaging $2 or more per oyster. However, that wasn't always the case, starting back in 1880, oysters were not a delicacy, but instead, a popular food found anywhere and everywhere in New York, even sold by street vendors. Oysters were so abundant in the waters of New York that the shells were used to pave Pearl Street.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 1900's the New York oyster population started taking a hard hit from pollution, overfishing, and damage to their natural habitat.
The great news is that today, with the help of the River Project, oysters are beginning to make a come back in the Hudson River, though the intent is not to farm them for food. Instead, oysters aid to clean and filter out pollution from the water aiding in the growth of plants and fish. The oysters reintroduced into the river were part of a reef installed in 2013.
Oysters once were only enjoyed in the months that ended in R, because that was when they were safest to eat. A type of bacteria, Vibrio, that thrives in warmer waters, can cause humans to become ill, can affect oysters. Thankfully this bacteria does not grow and spread as quickly in colder water.
However, over the years, farmers have found ways around this issue, making oysters a safer delicacy to be enjoyed year-round.
Farmed oysters are different than farmed fish in that they eat and live in the same conditions as they would in the wild with one key exception; they are in a cage to prevent natural predators from eating them.
Otherwise, farmers do not need to feed the oysters, since they take in nutrients naturally found in the water. Additionally, farmed oysters do not have negative impacts on the natural ecology. This means that both fresh and farmed oysters are healthy and can be readily enjoyed.
Oyster of the Month Clubs
- Island Creek Oysters
- Wild Ocean Market
Oyster Gift Boxes
- Real Oyster Cult
- Rappahannock Oyster Co
Island Creek Oysters
Island Creek Oysters, located in Duxbury, Massachusetts, is a family and friend owned and operated shellfish company that specializes in farming oysters. The founder, Skip Bennett, was raised in the Duxbury area and comes from one of the oldest families in the town.
Saltwater professions are part of the Bennett family. Skip's father was a lobsterman, and when Bennett returned from school, he took up his place on the coast. First, he tried his hand in raising clams, then moved onto oysters. Though he had his ups and downs, he joined forces with friends and family, and soon the Island Creek Oyster company was a success.
Island Creek's oysters are now found coast to coast in upscale restaurants and homes alike. These tasty treats have even been served at dinners in the White House. And they received notoriety by esteemed food critics such as R.W. Apple and Sam Sifton.
In addition to their famous oysters, Island Creek also sells caviar, tinned fish, clams, lobsters, and shucking tools.
For those looking to have a monthly delivery of these premium oysters, their oyster of the month club comes in three different options. A three-month subscription costs $285, a six-month subscription costs $540, and a 12-month subscription costs $1,000.
Every month you will receive 50 fresh oysters. The oysters are selected each month by Island Creek's top ostreaphiles. The oysters are chosen from a variety of farms all over the US, including the Island Creek farm.
If you order by the 13th of the month, you will meet the cut off period, and your shipment will go out the last Thursday of that month.
Wild Ocean Market
The Wild Ocean Market, located in Florida and founded by Rodney Thompson, was not the founder's original dream. Thompson's career initially was in the boat building business.
When Thompson came up with a new design for his boats for shrimp trawlers, it was not as well-received as he had hoped, causing Thompson to supplement his boat-building business. Stuck with a boat he could not sell, he opted to take to the waters himself and start shrimping. Unfortunately, his first few times out to sea were not a success.
Fortunately, luck was with Thompson one beautiful day when he docked his boat and met another captain who introduced him to the rock shrimp. Though rock shrimp were not the traditional shrimp people were used to, these little “peanuts” turned out to be quite delicious.
Though Thompson did not strike rich from this new find, it was the start of his career in the seafood market. Eventually, in the 1970s, Rodney let go of his boat company and turned fully to his career in the seafood business. After joining with friends and family, he focused on expanding the Wild Ocean Market, which grew into the company it is today.
In addition to selling fresh seafood, the market also offers a full menu of cooked items at their Titusville store. Though you can buy many of their fresh catches online, they also have an oyster of the month club.
Their club comes in three choices, all of which run for three months.
- 1 dozen/month, 3 each from 4 regions for $57.00
- 2 dozen/month, 6 each from 4 regions for $107.00
- 4 dozen/month, 12 each from 4 regions for $189.00
Oyster Gift Boxes
Real Oyster Cult
Real Oyster Cult, also located on Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts, was founded by married couple Rob Knecht and Sims McCormick. Together with friends, they make it their goal to share the delight of fresh farm oysters with customers all over the country.
The oysters sold at the oyster cult are from over 70 different farms around the country. And there are more than 90 different oyster varieties to choose from, though the season does impact availability.
When you place your order with the Oyster Cult, you can be confident you are getting the freshest oysters possible. Oysters get harvested at the farms just before being shipped to the Boston store, where they get packed and delivered onto you.
Orders are shipped either UPS or FedEx overnight. The oysters are packed in insulated boxes with cold packs and a temperature sensor to ensure your oysters are as fresh as possible when they arrive on your doorstep.
If you are seeking the perfect gift for an oyster lover, check out the Real Oyster Cult's Gift Bundle. It comes in three sizes: 20 oysters for $67, 40 oysters (from two varieties) for $87.99, or 60 oysters (from three varieties) for $113.97.
Each gift bundle includes a ROC shucking knife and shucking gloves.
Rappahannock Oyster Co.
Rappahannock Oyster Co., co-owned by cousins Ryan and Tim Croxton, is the revived family business started by James Croxton in 1899. After James' death, the family business fell into the hands of William Croxton, who grew the company to new heights. However, William saw the crash of the oyster industry on the horizon, so he encouraged his sons to seek other careers outside of the oyster community.
Despite this, in 2001, Ryan and Tim took up the reigns to the family business and, along with several other farmers, restaurant owners, and activists, fought diligently to bring back the oyster industry that was on the verge of collapse. Today, because of those who wouldn't let the industry die, Virginia is once again a major player in the oyster game.
Rappahannock Oyster Co. is only one part of the Croxton business, they also own several oyster and clam farms and three restaurants, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Merroir, and Rappahannock. Together the cousins work with their dedicated team to bring people together to share in good food.
If you don't happen to be near the Chesapeake Bay area, you are always welcome to shop their online shellfish market. In addition to a variety of available oysters, you can also purchase an oyster gift box and have it shipped to your favorite oyster lover.
The Oyster Gift Box ($60) includes 25 oysters (your choice of Rappahannocks, Rochambeaus, or Olde Salts), shucking gloves, a shucking knife, and a bottle of Rappahannock Oyster Co. Hot Sauce.