I asked my friend Tamie Cook, Culinary Director for Good Eats, to write this blog about the educational session she attended at the last Georgia Organics conference.
I am a latecomer to the oyster bandwagon. I didn’t grow up with seafood loving parents and therefore was not exposed to much of it until I became an adult. I remember the first time I ate oysters and loved them. I was visiting some friends on Tybee Island GA and they suggested we go down to the dock and buy ‘a bag’ of oysters. I had no idea this bag would be 50 pounds and we would spend the rest of the day in the yard with the hose, scrubbing oysters. We shucked, and roasted, and ate a large portion of that bag. To this day when ever I have an oyster I think of that bag and remember it fondly.
So in March when I had the opportunity to attend an educational session as part of the Georgia Organics’ conference, and one of my choices was a visit to SkidawayIsland’s Shellfish Research Lab and participate in an oyster roast, I signed up immediately. We toured the GEORGIA (Generating Enhanced Oyster Reefs in Georgia's Inshore Areas) project, which is a community-based oyster shell recycling and reef restoration project. I learned how to recycle oyster shells and the importance of oyster reef habitats along the Georgia coast. The tour was followed up with oyster shell bagging, where we took large pieces of PVC pipe used as makeshift funnels, and fed the shells into mesh bags. Volunteers later would place these bags along Georgia oyster reef sites. The shells inside the bags create the substrate for oysters and other organisms to attach and grow during the upcoming spawning season. The program has been very successful in increasing the oyster populations of Georgia’s coast.
The reward for this work was an oyster roast on the banks of the Skidaway River. It was a beautiful, breezy afternoon and the local oysters were fresh and briny. I ate my fill and was once again reminded of that 50 pound bag many years ago. I am grateful to all the volunteers who have been working to make certain that many generations of oyster lovers to come can enjoy their own roasts.
If you live in or around the Savannah or Brunswick area and are planning an oyster roast of your own, you can recycle your shells and contribute to the program. Contact the Marine Extension at 912 598-2348 to schedule a pick up or learn more about recycling centers. If you’d like to learn more about the program you can link to www.shellfish.uga.edu/oysterrest.html.
If you want to enjoy some Oysters check out the Hilton Head Oyster Festival November 12 & 13, 2011 http://www.hiltonheadisland.org/dining/culinary-events/