If the names don’t get you smiling, the taste of these incredible local oysters will.
Autumn on the Eastern Shore and oysters go hand in hand. The air here will soon get cooler and crisper, and oyster lovers will find themselves with that old familiar craving again…
This time of year, towns and communities across the state will be celebrating the beloved Virginia oyster in the form of festivals, roasts, and tastings and more. And even though modern oyster farming has shattered the “only in months ending in R” wives tale, autumn still just feels like oyster time, doesn’t it?
On the Eastern Shore, the oyster is more than just a tasty treat, it’s a symbol of the rich bounty of our waters and our way of life. This region has been oyster country forever, as some of the first settlers to the region attest: “Oysters there be in whole banks and beds, and those of the best I have seen some thirteen inches long.” – William Strachey, English settler, circa 1612
Oyster harvesting is an age-old way of life here—many folks have been doing it for generations. And when that time-tested knowhow blends with innovative aquaculture techniques, the result is more and better oysters, sustainably grown. Lucky for us!
If you’re a casual oyster eater, you may not know how many different varieties there are though you’ve likely tasted the difference. Bruce Edmonds, Bay Creek resident and co-owner of Sam Rust Seafood tells us it’s all about salinity. “Oysters from the Chesapeake Bay have less salinity. You may hear those called ‘bayside sweets’. From the sea side, the Atlantic side, the oysters are naturally going to be saltier—‘seaside salts.’
As co-owner of Sam Rust Seafood, which was founded by his maternal grandfather, Samuel Rust in 1938 and later expanded by his father, Captain Bob Edmonds, Bruce grew up in the seafood business. He distributes all manner of seafood all over the country. He sources oysters locally from the James River and Eastern Shore (as well as the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Coast). They have no less than 22 different varieties of local mid-Atlantic oysters available at any given time. There are farm-raised oysters and wild caught. Bruce sources wild caught, seaside hand-picked oysters with R & C Seafood in Oyster, Virginia.
The taste, Bruce says, is incredible, and getting out there and hand-picking them is an art form.
Oysters can also become art unto themselves. Bruce’s wife and local artisan, Tammy Edmonds, uses oyster shells to create authentic Eastern Shore art objects and décor.
As for ‘the oyster season,’ Bruce Edmonds says autumn and oysters is a natural pairing: “People feel the cool in the air and they get that craving for oysters.” He echoes that oysters these days can be eaten in any season but says people still follow the ways of those who came before them. “Folks who grew up eating oysters in the fall continue doing that. Because their parents or grandparents did. It’s just like how spring makes people think ‘softshell crabs.’”
So the seasonal uptick in oyster craving is really down to the people, not the oysters.
How does this Eastern Shore oyster aficionado like his oysters? “I like them naked,” laughs Bruce. “I don’t want to ruin a good oyster with cocktail sauce or butter or mignonette.” When oysters are as good as the seaside salts that Bruce favors, there’s really nothing else needed.
Ready to seize the season and enjoy some of the world’s best oysters, from right here on our Eastern Shore? So are we.
Here are a few of our top picks:
EASTERN SHORE OYSTERS ON TAP – Cape Charles
Hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Friday, October 4, 2019 | 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Enjoy local oysters while learning about the work the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is doing to promote the burgeoning local oyster farming industry. Oysters will be provided by several Eastern Shore aquaculture operations, including HM Terry Co., Lambert Shellfish, Primo Clams and Oysters from Walker’s Seafood, Ruby Salts Oyster Co., and Shooting Point Oyster Company.
C-Pier at the Oyster Farm, 500 Marina Village Circle, Cape Charles
Tickets for the event are $25 each and include beer and all-you-can-eat raw oysters.
More about this event »
MERROIR & TERROIR ~ OYSTER EXTRAVAGANZA
Saturday, November 9 | 4 to 8pm
No two things taste more like their place than wine and oysters. Celebrate the Eastern Shore’s distinct viticulture and aquaculture offerings. Includes a raw bar tasting, steamed clams, roasted oysters, Eastern Shore-style clam chowder, BBQ with all the fixings and a glass of Church Creek wine of your choice. Live Music.
$65/person | | Advanced Ticket Purchases Required GO »
CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND OYSTER FESTIVAL
Saturday, October 12 | 10am to 4pm
Enjoy oysters—raw, steamed, fritters, and single fried; clam fritters, clam chowder, shrimp cocktail and more. Plus, live entertainment!
Admission: $45.00, Children under 5 are free
Looking to go further afield?
• Check out a full list of all Oyster-centric Celebrations across the state »
• The Virginia Oyster Trail: The Virginia Oyster Trail unites communities all across Virginia and invites you to participate in “journey of discovery” eco-tourism experiences. Experience the many “flavors” of Virginia’s Oysters and the distinctive watermen/aquaculture coastal way of life. Learn more: http://www.virginiaoystertrail.com/