Should You Only Eat Oysters in Months With an ‘R’?

Closeup of Chesapeake oysters
Tyler Darden

You’ve probably heard the ages-old rule about eating raw oysters only in months that include the letter “R.” In other words, don’t consume them in the summer, no matter how many seafood shacks you might frequent. We call bullshit.



Not that the caution didn’t make sense way back in the day, when lack of refrigeration meant that slurping raw oysters, quick to spoil in summer heat, was like playing shellfish roulette. Nowadays, oysters are kept icy cold and alive all the way from the water to your local raw bar, or doorstep.

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Red tide? Toxic algae? Yes, these occur more often in summer’s warming waters, but the United States is so strict about quality inspections that oysters aren’t imported from the European Union because it has less strict guidelines.

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Another previously relevant factor was that wild oysters spawn in warmer waters, a process that leaves them flimsy and rank. (Maybe you can relate.) Today’s farmed oysters are largely bred as sterile triploids that never reproduce. So forget about only eating oysters in months with an ‘r’. As long as you’re not ordering a wild-harvested oyster from warmer waters, there’s no issue. Pass the lemon wedge.

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