12 Oysters You Should Know

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If you love eating oysters but know little about all the various East Coast, Gulf Coast and West Coast varieties, then we've got a handy reference for you.

The forthcoming book Oysters: A Celebration in the Raw is a primer on everything you need to know about these ambrosial bivalves, from where they grow and how they taste to their greater purpose in sustaining a healthy ecosystem. Its authors include the Emmy-winning television producer and writer Marion Lear Swaybill and the James Beard Award–nominated Boston chef Jeremy Sewall, with photographs by award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer Scott Snider. In the book, you'll find more than 200 pages brimming with beautifully photographed oysters, their origins and flavor profiles, as well as helpful insights on the history and current revival of oyster farming in America.

The following is an excerpt and adaptation from the book spotlighting a dozen of the most delectable specimens from around the country, courtesy of publisher Abbeville Press:

Aunt Dotty's

Origin: Plymouth, Massachusetts

Grower: Skip Bennett

Flavor profile: Aunt Dotty's have a light brine and a great sweetness to them — a rich oyster with a mineral finish.

Blue Pool

Origin: Hood Canal, Washington

Grower: Adam James

Flavor profile: The Blue Pool oyster is very meaty and has a crisp, earthy sweet flavor, with a vegetable finish.

Diamond Jims

Origin: North Fork, Long Island, New York

Grower: Ted Bucci

Flavor profile: Diamond Jims have a big salt blast up front, with a chicken broth flavor that lingers.

Half Moon Selects

Origin: Half Moon Bay, Georgia

Grower: John Pelli

Flavor profile: Half Moon Selects taste like a flash of seawater with a vegetal finish.

Hog Island Sweetwaters

Origin: Tomales Bay, California

Grower: John Finger

Flavor profile: Hog Island Sweetwaters are a little sweet, as the name would suggest, but have a great mineral finish.

Island Creeks

Origin: Duxbury, Massachusetts

Grower: Skip Bennett

Flavor profile: Island Creeks start with a briny pop and move into vegetal notes in the middle.

Jonathan Island Pearly Whites

Origin: Narragansett, Rhode Island

Growers: Ben and Diane Franford

Flavor profile: Jonathan Island Pearly Whites are high in salt and minerality, with spinach notes.

Moon Shoal

Origin: Barnstable, Massachusetts

Grower: John Finger

Flavor profile: A nearly perfect Cape Cod oyster, the Moon Shoal has a salty and buttery flavor.

Northern Cross

Origin: Fisherman's Island, Virginia

Grower: Tim Rapine

Flavor profile: Northern Crosses have a strong vegetal flavor up front — almost like spinach — and then a great bread-like quality with strong salt on the finish, not typical for a Virginia oyster.


Origin: Clarks Cove, Maine

Grower: Carter Newell

Flavor profile: Pemaquids are plump, crisp, and salty with a slightly earthy finish.

Rocky Nooks

Origin: Kingston, Massachusetts

Growers: Greg Barker and John Whebble

Flavor profile: Rocky Nooks have a briny and sweet start but end with a strong, earthy finish.


Origin: Shelton, Washington

Grower: Bill Taylor

Flavor profile: Shigokus are smaller than most other oysters, with a very deep cup that is full of meat, and a salty celery flavor with an earthy finish — think sunchokes and mushrooms.