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The Forager

Seasonal seafood: Pacific oysters

The Forager

Pacific oysters have a sweet, salty flavour with a texture that varies from light in March to creamy from August to December.

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Although it is said that oysters provide the best eating in the cooler months, Pacific oysters can be enjoyed all year round in Australia.

It’s true that oysters are much more likely to spoil in higher temperatures – and there are fewer fresh oysters available during the summer months – however, with South Australia producing Pacific oysters in the pristine waters of Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, freshly shucked (opened) oysters can always be found.

Coffin Bay and Smoky Bay oysters are some of the most renowned in Australia.

Oysters are very low in fat and cholesterol, and are rich in vitamins and minerals including zinc and Omega 3. It has been suggested that four or five medium-sized Pacific oysters will supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus.

The best way to eat oysters is fresh and uncooked within 20 minutes of shucking, but they are also delicious lightly steamed with Asian flavours or coated in panko crumbs and deep fried. Purists insist on eating them raw – including the juice – with no dressing other than perhaps lemon juice, vinegar or cocktail sauce.

High-end restaurants often serve fresh oysters with a dressing of fresh chopped shallots, peppercorns, dry white wine and lemon juice or sherry vinegar. Larger oysters are delicious placed unopened in hot ashes until they open and then eaten straight from the shell.

Selection and storage

When purchasing fresh oysters, always ask the salesperson when and where the the oysters were harvested and how long that particular batch has been in stock. If buying whole (unopened), check for gaping (partially opened shells) as this could be an indication that the oyster is not fresh and may be unsafe to eat.

Live whole Pacific oysters can be stored unopened and refrigerated for five to seven days from the day of harvest before being “shucked” (opened). Pre-opened oysters should be consumed on the day of purchase. Live Pacific oysters should be stored at 4 to 8C, covered with a damp cloth in an airtight container. If in doubt about freshness, do not eat.

How to shuck

To open the oyster, position with the flat side of the shell facing up and the oyster “ear” facing out. Insert oyster knife at 15 degrees to the bottom shell. Gently prise shell apart by twisting knife with a “motorcycle grip”. Slide knife along the top shell to two o’clock position and snip abductor muscle to release the top shell. Snip the abductor muscle from the base of the oyster on the bottom shell to release. Gently roll the oyster over the shell before serving.

A box of Pacific oysters will be sold to the highest bidder at the next SEAsonal SEEchange auction at 7am on Wednesday, June 29, at the Safcol Central Fish Market, 54-58 London Road, Mile End. For more information, visit the Wildcatch Fisheries SA website or call 7221 1960.

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