As far back as the Romans, oysters were not the delicacy they are today, mainly eaten by the poor because they were cheap to buy or foraged from the sea. During the early 19th century the biggest provider of oysters worldwide was New York harbour.
As many as six thousand oysters could be found on barges along the city’s harbour on any one day and the people of the city loved them. They were a source of affordable nutrition and the industry provided much-needed employment for hundreds of local men and women.
Demand was so great it eventually drained many of the oyster beds, when foreign oysters were introduced in an attempt to help raise stock levels they also introduced disease, this along with effluent and a rise in sedimentation from erosion, most of the New York beds were empty by the beginning of the 20th century.
The popularity and demand for the wild oyster led to shortages which in turn led to big price increases, oysters were no longer accessible to the working classes and became the expensive delicacy they are considered today.
Wild oysters are especially are a great source of minerals including iron, zinc and selenium as well as vitamin B12 especially when eaten raw.
This weekend the famous Whitstable oyster is being celebrated at the family-friendly Oyster Festival, go along and have a taste of the sea there is nothing like it find out why they have been so popular for thousands of years.