I often tell the story of my first real time collecting oysters. I was at the state park in Sequim, Washington. We had camped overnight. In the morning, my son and I walked down to the shore. The tide was low and the beach was covered with these lumpy rock like things. There were several people on the beach, all standing around talking and what not. I looked at them and at the things on the beach. Finally, I asked “are those oysters?”
The guys all looked at me like I was dumb and said yes. Honestly, I had never seen anything like it. We collected buckets of oysters and then went and got my step father to help us with them.
You see oysters in the state of Washington have to be shucked on the beach, the shells returned to the ocean. It’s great because you only leave with good oysters. Not so great because shucking takes time. That particular day, we sat on a bench next to the ocean and shucked until we reached our limit.
As you can see in the picture above, oysters look a lot like rocks. They sit on the beach. Unlike clams, oysters like to cluster. Sometimes you can find (like we did in Sequim), huge rock like structures. Often oysters group in smaller clusters with just a few stuck together or you can find them as individuals.
Collecting them is the easy part.
Shucking, not so much. I have learned that when it comes to oysters, don’t spare expense. A good solid oyster knife and a really good pair of gloves will save so much heartache down the line (and possibly a trip to the ER).
To shuck an oyster, you take your knife (which looks a lot like a wide letter opener) and dig at the base of the shell. The idea is to break the “hinge” which is the easier place to open an oyster. Once you have that broken, slide your knife around the rest of the shell.
Then slide your oyster into your container. The oyster, itself, is attached to the shell in one place so you have to cut that to slide the oyster out (or to eat it). Be careful not to get shell or little critters into your container.
You can eat oysters right on the beach. I was a little shocked at how salty they are. I’ve eaten raw oysters before and they weren’t salty like they are on the beach. It’s almost too salty but they are tasty. Be sure to get the “juice” too – makes for good stock and other things.
I, personally, love oysters best. Clams are okay but they are gritty and so much work to collect. Oysters are more passive in the collecting but not without their own work. I love that they require little processing to eat.
Something to note, they come in sizes. The smaller oysters are tastier but take a long time to collect enough to feel like you’ve got something to eat. The larger oysters can be a little less flavorful but provide a lot of food in a shorter time.
If you are new to shellfish collecting, I recommend finding someone who’s more experienced to show you how to shuck an oyster and to make sure you have some good equipment. After that, you can fill your freezer full of oysters with little work.