Thursday, April 28, 2011

End of Harvest

It's spring once more and I wish I had the drive to be neatly boxing things up for posterity and tying everything with silk ribbons. I am content to sweep in dark corners and take unused things to the relevant recycling facility. Seasonal changes acome with refreshing reminders and new discoveries. Remarkable how many changes for the good are afoot despite the generally gloomy economic air.

One seasonal change is not so welcome. Almost every Friday During the last three months I have been in the habit of dropping in to the oft mentioned Fish King in Glendale to buy a dozen live oysters and the odd scallop or two. They usually have Fanny Bays from Canada but I opt for the delicious Hama Hamas from the Hamma Hamma estuary up in Washington State (note the two spellings - one trademarked). They are farmed and harvested in an ecologically sound and old fashioned way in their natural environment, according to Rowan Jacobsen's excellent and comprehensive book on the the American oyster, A Geography of Oysters. Once home, I have an inexpensive shucking knife with which I pry them open, squirt on a drop of lemon and it's down the hatch, chased with a mouthful of prosecco. Fresh, raw oysters have more in common flavor-wise with fresh vegetables such as cucumber and celery than with other shellfish though the liquor in the opened shell is important to retain and it often has small traces of seawater. One Saturday I changed tack and went downtown to a seafood wholesaler and fetched some tasty little kumamotos but they just didn't do much for me and I was back to the Hama Hamas, which are also a Japanese variety introduced to replenish the devastation of our natural beds on the Pacific Coast during the gold rush. The Olympia is the only native Pacific oyster left and is hard to find outside of Puget Sound. It has been thirty years since I was in its habitat and I still remember the dozen I had then as the most delicious oysters I have ever had. These days, with the Hama Hamas as my weekly treat I cannot think of anything much more luxurious or satisfying for about a dollar a pop.

Sadly the season is now at an end and the spawning season begins four month stretch. True, the limits are vague depending on the warmth of the water and the location, apparently in the gulf it can happen at any time, but, elsewhere in the northern hemisphere the general rule is if there is an R in the month, the oysters are going taste strange or full or unpredictable, and that is all. The Oyster's reproductive cycle is remarkable and I cherish the fact that most oysters are in their prime for the plate after three years of growth. Some eat during the spawning season but I am going to wait until September and count the days while they finish getting their thangs on.

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