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The world is your oyster

A seafood delicacy, popular the world over, Simon Rhodes dispels the aphrodisiac myth about oysters, but says they are still good for you

The world is your oyster

Oysters are good for you

As spring approaches and our climate starts to pack away its winter overcoat and dig out the T-shirt in preparation for a long hot summer – who am I kidding? – my thoughts turn to a summer favourite – the oyster.

This once popular food of Victorian Londoners, which was served outside pubs in wheelbarrows, is still much sought-after around the world.

Did you know that worldwide around two billion oysters are eaten every year? In Whitstable, Kent, they get through around 30,000 alone just during the Oyster Festival.

Oysters are a fantastic starter to any meal. They are light, easy to prepare, fun, and taste absolutely delicious fresh, as well as seasoned with a number of accompaniments.

Oysters have been around for a long time and the first recording of the word ‘shuck’ was in 1881.

The saying ‘the world’s your oyster’ comes from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor: “The world’s mine oyster which I with sword will open.”

It is a myth that they are an aphrodisiac, however they do contain rare amino acids that help with reproduction.

The myth was also probably fuelled by the fact that the famous 18th-century Italian lover Casanova was very fond of them and it is believed that he ate about 50 oysters at the start of the day.

The shells are also great for helping your garden flourish. The reason for this is calcium and the oyster shell is full of it. This chemical can improve the soil’s pH balance, add nutrients to the plants and strengthen their cell walls, all of which leads to healthy produce and brighter flowers. So next time, think twice about throwing the shells away and use them as fertilizer instead.

Each oyster filters about 30 to 50 gallons of water a day. Think of how much water a whole bed of those awesome bivalves are cleaning, which makes these not only tasty creatures, but also good-for-the-environment ones as well.

Before they are sold, oysters are harvested and purged in a clean lake or pond for several days and are then subjected to an UV light to kill off any bacteria. So when you eat a live oyster you can be assured that as long as they have been kept in proper conditions it will taste fresh, of the sea and clean.

They are incredibly healthy for us, too, as they contain zinc and essential minerals, which means they are also good for your skin and immune system.

There are many accompaniments to go with oysters, such as finely chopped ginger, soy sauce and wasabi, or tabasco and a squeeze of lemon or lime, or chilli and fresh coriander or red wine vinegar and finely chopped shallots, or why not try and experiment with different combinations. The flavours will explode in your mouth and will give you something exciting to talk about.

Happy shucking everyone.

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