A recent article in the Boston Globe did a great job highlighting some of the culinary traditions like oyster roasts that have defined oysters in Charleston for generations, but they missed one key part: Charleston oysters aren't just for steaming anymore.
If you are an oyster lover (particularly with Wellfleet beds currently closed due to norovirus concerns), run, don’t walk, to Charleston.
With saltwater river and creek banks winding in from the Atlantic, oysters here grow wild in large cluster beds. Says Rowan Jacobsen, oyster expert and author of the new book “The Essential Oyster,” “South Carolina is one of the few regions still blessed with healthy wild populations. Oysters aren’t a novelty there. They are baked into the culture.”
In fact, oysters are so much a part of the culture, the city is practically built on them. Present-day Charleston sits on a site called Oyster Point, and, according to local guide and historian Anne Middleton Heron, “tabby, a concrete mixture made by grinding oyster shells,” was the most common kind of mortar used to build some of the city’s oldest brick structures.
But don’t expect to eat Lowcountry oysters raw. Even in Charleston’s seafood-focused restaurants, most uncooked oysters actually come from New England. In the Lowcountry, it is steaming that’s big.
It's true that nothing can diminish the uniquely delicious experience of coming together with a group of friends (or strangers) for an oyster roast. But the Globe missed something very important that's happening right in front of their eyes.
From the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay, the Southeast is rapidly expanding its production of high-quality single oysters meant to be enjoyed raw on the half shell. In fact, in many Charleston restaurants it's already possible to find at least one South Carolina oyster on the raw bar menu - provided they're in season.
And, given the largely untapped potential of the Southern geography and climate, there is every reason to think that Southeast oysters could one day challenge New England's supremacy as the number one oyster-producing region in the country.
Barrier Island is proud to be part of that exciting future, and we look forward to giving the folks at the Boston Globe a chance to try Sea Clouds and see for themselves what Southern raw oysters have to offer.