The place to find all of the answers to your questions about oysters, particularly Rogue Oysters raised in the Rappahannock River. We live for oysters and love to share what we've learned over the years so don't hesitate to ask.
Where do you raise your oysters?
We raise our oysters on the main branch of the Rappahannock River. We work out of Greenvale Marina in Lancaster, VA on the Northern Neck.
What kind of oysters do you raise?
The Eastern Oyster, also called the Virginia Oyster or American Oyster. Whatever you call it, they are all Crassostrea Virginica. No matter where on the East Coast you are getting oysters, be it the Gulf, the Chesapeake Bay, or all the way up to Maine, you are eating the same species of oyster.
Now, you might hear someone say “Gulf oyster” or “Chesapeake oyster,” as if they are different. Well, flavor-wise, they are. Oyster flavor is significantly impacted by the environment in which it is grown. So while a Gulf oyster and a Chesapeake oyster are the same oyster, their flavor will be very different.
So, that said, we raise Rappahannocks!
Now, for some science detail. We currently raise triploid Lily and Lola stock. Triploid just means a sterile oyster. Lily and Lola can be thought of as bloodlines. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science selectively breeds oysters using different stocks to create, primarily, more disease resistant oysters. They will also select for other traits, such as growth rates. For an exhaustive but delightfully informative conversation, feel free to reach out to either us or to VIMS.
What do your oysters taste like?
Like kissing the sea! Like an ocean spray in the summertime of your youth! Like life itself!
But really, our oysters fall into the category of “sweet” oysters. This really just means they are lighter on salt. Our salt range is generally 12-16 parts per thousand (ppt). By contrast ocean grown oysters would have a salinity range of 28-36 ppt.
After the salt, our oysters are characterized by a butter creaminess that is balanced by a slight minerality that you don’t find elsewhere in the Bay.
What about the months that include an "R" rule?
This is an old rule for a few reasons. Summertime is oyster spawning time. So during the summer oysters put a lot of energy toward spawning. If you get an oyster that is about to spawn, it will be so full of eggs/sperm that it will look like it is about to burst out of its shell. Or if you get one that has recently spawned, it will look like the ghost of an oyster. Neither are harmful to eat, but neither represent an oyster at its best. This is why farms tend to grow at least some sterile, non-spawning oysters. These oysters do not go through the process of spawning and so are always consistent and ready to eat!
Another reason this was a rule is toxic algae blooms. Some areas experience periodic blooms of algae that can be harmful to humans. These will occur in warmer months and were hard to track, so just not eating oysters in warmer months was the safer thing to do. Now state organizations are very good at tracking blooms and shutting down areas that could be impacted.
And lastly, refrigeration. Before refrigeration, eating oysters in warm months was just a risky thing to do, especially if they were eaten raw. This is no longer a problem as farms are required to follow strict rules on temperature controls.
When do I need to place my order?In order to give you freshest oysters possible, we harvest-to-order.
- Regional Pick-Up: Orders must be placed by 10 pm EST on Thursdays to guarantee your order, but feel free to check with us after to see if we can add your order or if we harvested extra.
- Farm Pick-Up: We typically need at least 2 days of notice for a farm pick-up order to guarantee it.
How do I shuck an oyster?
Carefully! Seriously, oysters should be a fun experience. Nothing will ruin that experience faster than stabbing yourself. That said, shucking is nothing to be afraid of. It just takes a little practice and a bit of patience. Also, an oyster knife. Not a paring knife, not a butter knife, and not a screwdriver. We have a video on a few techniques here.
What if I don't want to shuck oysters?
For enjoying oysters raw, there really isn’t a way around shucking. We recommend finding a friend, neighbor, or family member who can do it. If you have a teenager, this is an excellent life skill to make them learn!
All that being said, cooked oyster do not really need to be shucked. Most of them will open on their own, and the few that don’t should be relatively easy to open up.
What's the best way to prepare oysters?
That debate could go to the end of time. Oysters are extremely versatile and we are constantly seeing new ways to prepare them. Really, it is whatever you like.
What should I do with the oyster shells when I'm done?
Ideally, you will be able to recycle your oyster shells. That does not mean put it in your blue bin. Several groups have oyster shell recycling programs and set drop points where you can take your shell. That shell will eventually be used in a restoration project helping to boost dwindling natural oyster populations. Whether or not this is feasible depends on where you live. We have a few resources and more information here. Of course, if you can get it back to us, we will gladly take it and use it in one of our restoration projects!
I was told oysters are good for the environment. Why is that?
In short, oysters are a foundational species in aquatic ecosystems. In less boring terms, they filter the word to the point that submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV aka underwater grasses) can grow and create a habitat for fish, crabs, shrimp and many other aquatic species.
How can I get Rogue Oysters to enjoy at home?
You’ve got three options to guarantee your oyster order:
- Pre-order our oysters here and pick them up at a regional pick-up.
- Pre-order our oysters here and pick them up at our farm in Lancaster, VA.
- Pre-order our oysters here and we’ll ship them to you.
Did you catch the pattern? We harvest-to-order so the only way to guarantee you can get our oysters is to pre-order them. With that said, we usually harvest a little extra so you might as well check with us.
Can I raise my own oysters?
We can only speak for Virginia, but YES! In Virginia, you can get a free permit for oyster gardening from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Growing oysters is very easy. The Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association is an excellent resource for growing your own oysters. They have resources for purchasing your baby oysters as well as your growout gear. If you want someone to talk you through it all, they have people that can help. Or you can just call us, we’re happy to help. Fair warning. We got started with a garden, so be careful that you don’t end up with a full scale farm!
Importantly, not all waters in Virginia, or any coastal state, are inherently safe to eat selfish from. Some waters are contaminated and you can make yourself sick eating oyster from them. Here is a an interactive map of Virginia waters that will show you any condemned areas.
Also importantly, you can still grow oysters in condemned waters IF you want to do it for the environmental benefits. The oysters will grow just fine, filter the water, and will still attract and act as a home all manner of critters.
Do you sell oysters that are already shucked?
No, we do not because we are too small to handle it, but we're exploring options and will be sure to announce it in our newsletter first and then on our website.
How do I know when you're going to be nearby?
The best way is to sign up for our newsletter. We send that out once a month with details on where we’ll be. Other than that, just check in on our website or follow us on either instagram or facebook.
Do you sell spat?
Yes, However, we do not sell spat on a large scale and do not grow a bunch of extra spat with the intention of selling it. We absolutely will sell spat if we have extra to let go, so feel free to get in touch and check. Also, if you tell us early in the spring (before April) that you would like to get spat from us, we can account for that when we get our spat and grow it out to the size you want.
What size oyster should I buy?
That just depends on what you want to do with it. We recommend larger oysters if you are planning on roasting, steaming, or frying the oyster. The oyster will shrink a bit as it is cooked, so getting larger oysters ensures that there is plenty of oyster to enjoy after you are done cooking!
Our regular sized 3-3.5 inch oyster is the most versatile. It is small enough to be enjoyed raw, but large enough to stand up to cooking. These are our favorite oysters to shuck and put on the grill with whatever toppings we are feeling.
Petite oysters are really just for shucking. They are a bit easier to shuck than our other two sizes. Given their smaller size, they won’t fill you up and tend to go well as an accompaniment to a larger meal. Some people call oysters of this size “cocktail” oysters since they are great enjoyed with a drink before a meal. But don’t worry, even though they are a bit smaller, they are just as delicious.
Can I pick up oysters at your farm?
Of course! We do need advance notice to make sure we can get your order ready. We do not keep oysters on hand, but only harvest when we have orders. So the more notice we have of your order, the better.
Can I get a tour of the farm?
With enough notice, and depending on what is happening at the farm. We currently offer non-paid tours of the farm. We can always show you around the land operations. This means the workshop, the nursery, the sorting area, and the boat. And we are happy to talk through our operation and answer any questions. Whether or not we can take the boat to the farm depends on time and the weather.
Do I need to order by a certain day or time to be guaranteed oysters?
Great question. Yes! Because we only harvest to order, if you try to place an order after we have harvested we might not have enough oysters to fill your order. If it looks like you are past the order deadline, just reach out and we’ll do what we can to get you some oysters
Why don’t you sell bushels?
Bushels are how wild oysters are sold. It is a method of selling in bulk. These oysters are harvested, checked to make sure they are above the minimum legal size, and put in bushels. They will have oysters of various shapes and sizes and typically end up getting shucked and sold in quarts. These oysters are not inherently lower quality, but in many cases, there is no real quality check. If it is big enough, it goes in the basket.
Bushels tend to be what people buy when they don’t care as much about how the oyster looks, how deep the cup is, or any of the things farmers focus on. They just want a bunch of oysters for roasting. There’s nothing wrong with that and we can absolutely point you in the right direction for some bushels around here.
Whereas wild caught oysters tend to end up in quart jars, oyster farms target the half-shell market. A lot of time and effort is put into making sure that the oysters we bring to market are premium oysters that are deep cupped, full of meat, and have the clean flavor that comes from being raised off the bottom.