David Lauderdale

In SC Lowcountry, tell the world that this is OUR oyster

The world is our oyster — or ought to be.

Lowcountry oysters are like Lowcountry shrimp and Lowcountry blue crabs. Nothing could be finer.

But when I visited New York City last week, I discovered that the world is somebody else’s oyster.

I saw single oysters in beds of chipped ice, introduced by name and personality.

At a glance, some people could know more about their oyster than they know about their own children.

At the Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar in Chelsea Market, I meet Summerside, from Maipeque Bay on Prince Edward Island, “medium salinity, with sweet, buttery finish,” $4.

And there was Nisqually from Washington, “mild salinity with plump meats and pronounced sweetness,” $3.10.

Others come from New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

But I didn’t see anything about the May River, or the queens of the clean, salty waters of home.

A message hit home in my gawking.

It said, “We’re special. We’re the best. We’re well worth $3 or so for that one quick slurp.”

But what about us?

Who’s spreading the word about our Lowcountry delicacies?

Judging by the number of people farming oysters in our local waters, we have plenty to talk about.

But does the world know that this is our oyster?

I don’t know all of the oyster people, but I know our oyster farmers include the old man of our sea, Frank Roberts at Lady’s Island Oyster Co.

When Southern Living magazine listed the “South’s Best Farmed Oysters,” it said:

“Former tough guy Marine Frank Roberts and his crew grow seriously gorgeous oysters with plump and juicy meat and delicate, medium-sized shell. Aficionados in the Lowcountry prize the ‘Single Lady’ oyster for its balanced flavor and smooth, clean finish.”

Now we’re talking.

And we could talk about brothers Austin and Andrew Harter and their May River Oyster Co. It’s a family business for a family whose multi-generation love for the May River and their cottage in Alljoy shows in the company slogan, “Our passion is yours to savor.”

St. Jude Farm at Bennetts Point in the ACE Basin is also family-owned. They raise oysters in tidal streams with cool names like “Ace Blades,” “Otter Roasters” and “Charleston Salts.”

The Toomer family at the Bluffton Oyster Co. has been picking and processing local oysters for more then 100 years.

The Maggioni family is back at it, with the Maggioni Oyster Co. on St. Helena Island.

And Andrew Carmines of Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks on Hilton Head Island has started the Shell Ring Oyster Co. Like others, including the Billion Oyster Project in New York, Carmines stresses the environmental benefits oyster farming brings to the waterways.

Earlier this year, local state Reps. Shannon Erickson and Bill Bowers pushed through legislation to allow year-round harvesting by oyster farmers in South Carolina.

And the best Lowcountry chefs and restaurants know that our oysters are in a world of their own. They serve them and brag about it.

They know that Lowcountry oysters have all the pedigree they need to be served at the Grand Central Oyster Bar — or anywhere else.

I hope everyone else knows it.

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale

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