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Varieties of Oysters
It's widely accepted that oysters grown in cooler areas (such as the UK, Finland and Norway) have the best flavour when eaten raw. This difference in taste disappears almost totally when oysters are cooked. The cooking process evens out the salt and mineral content leaving different oysters tasting much the same.
There are four main species of oysters:
Ostrea edulis Found in European waters including the UK. The tastiest oysters, these are the right size to eat raw off the half shell. This species includes the well known UK and Irish varieties Galway and Whistable.
Crassostrea virginica Found in around Canada, US and Mexican coastal waters. The shells are around 1 to 2 cm (2 to 5 inches) long.
Crassostrea Gigas Found in Pacific Ocean waters. These produce very large oysters and are usually cooked.
Ostrea lurida Found in the West Coast waters of the US. Small and reasonably tasty.
Health Implications Of Eating Raw Oysters
One known condition from eating raw oysters is Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. This is normally contracted from eating oysters which have been taken from contaminated waters. There are other serious health dangers. Beware - clear, fresh-looking waters can be contaminated.
The bottom line is that you are more likely to suffer injury from gardening than eating raw oysters from your local supermarket, but the risk is there. If you have any existing health conditions, check with your doctor before eating raw oysters. If you harvest oysters on your own then you are on your own!
Smoked, canned oysters are great for appetizers. Canned oysters will have an expiration date on the packaging and should not be stroed longer than this date.
Frozen raw oysters will keep in a standard UK freezer for up to three months. They should be thawed in the refrigerator and then used as fresh oysters for cooking.