Wild caught oysters are those that you get when you go snorkeling in the ocean. The best way to describe them is like miniature versions of the fresh, tasty mussels you would find in a natural bays or lakes environment. These creatures are found living in the open oceans around many of the world’s large coastal cities. These are small, pearl-like creatures with soft shells that contain a highly nutritious interior filled with calcium carbonate and proteins. You probably have seen wild-caught oysters on a sushi roll at a restaurant.
Overharving of wild-caught oysters has occurred over the past few decades, as people have begun to recognize the valuable resource they provide to marine life and other areas of agriculture. These animals were considered bottom feeders until recently but their numbers have steadily been growing. Their population is now beginning to affect the wild fisheries that supply it. Many restaurants are now offering wild-caught oysters as an alternative to farmed or dairy-fed oysters.
Although these creatures look like tiny worms, they are actually bony fish about two or three times the size of a silver dollar. When they are born they are called zone and grow within the oyster‘s body from about four to ten days. As they mature they will reach approximately half a foot in length. They are carnivores and their preferred food is crabs, lobsters and shrimps. However, they will eat any crustacean meat that they can get their mouth around including human fingers, chicken legs and, occasionally, other wild caught seafood.
Their shells vary greatly in size and shape depending on where they are found and how old they are. Those that are found in the wild are referred to as fresh water shellfish and those that are cultured are known as saltwater cultured shellfish. The most common types are abalone and oysters. Each species has its own preferred habitat but typically live in shallow water in areas of coral reefs or other bodies of water with deeper waters as well as near shorelines.
Because these creatures are so small you may not be able to see them at first glance. When you look closer however, you will quickly see that these creatures are very distinguishable. Their heads will be either white or gray in color and their bodies will be striped with black and white dots. In some cases you may also be able to see their tentacles.
If you choose to purchase your wild caught oysters, you should be aware that many farmers raise them for consumption. However, their edible parts such as the clams, oyster shells and pails can be sold to seafood restaurants and dried for profit. Their meat however may only be eaten raw or served in a soup. If you choose to cook these creatures they should be prepared appropriately. They will often do better if they are patted dry instead of being fried.
While these creatures may not be the healthiest foods around, they can be delicious. Their meat is rich in taste and texture and may be best enjoyed when it is served with fresh vegetables and seafood. It is also good to occasionally season them with herbs and spices. The pungent flavors from which their meat is derived may irritate sensitive mucus membranes causing sinusitis and other irritation to occur. It may be best to avoid consuming these oysters during periods of sea sickness.
In addition to eating wild caught oysters as a delicious delicacy these sea creatures are also a source of food for birds, fish, crabs, crustaceans and other marine creatures. This provides a significant boost to local ecosystems by providing a variety of natural food sources. When purchasing wild-caught oysters, it is important that you store them properly. Many of them will not do well in salt water and should be kept in brackish or freshwater bodies of water. A good suggestion for packaging is to wrap in a damp cloth and add some silicone sealant to hold the shape.