The South Carolina Oyster Roast: Are You Ready?
Oyster roasts are a Lowcountry tradition on the South Carolina coast. South Carolina oyster roasts celebrate a highly prized staple of the area’s seafood culture and cuisine in Beaufort, Bluffton, and surrounding towns.
The South Carolina oyster roast is a time-honored tradition in the Lowcountry, a favorite excuse for a gathering. People come together in the outdoors to savor the salty, succulent delicacy, roasted in its shell on a large piece of sheet metal over burning firewood and then dumped on a standing platform, where attendees can belly up to the bar to get their fill. Locals know it’s best to bring their own gear: a sturdy leather glove to wear while prying open the oyster, and a short knife for cutting the muscle that attaches the meat to its shell, freeing it up for eating.
Oyster Roast Season
The South Carolina oyster roast is the perfect fall and winter party because of the Lowcountry’s mild weather, and it’s the time when oysters are harvested, during months with Rs in their name. The biggest, juiciest oysters come from cold water, and the pause in harvesting during the summer months is necessary for replenishing the stock.
Volunteers with the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program are doing their part to see that oyster beds along the coast are protected and nurtured, including a long-standing group from Sun City Hilton Head. They collect and recycle oyster shells for distribution along the beds to restore habitat. It’s an environmentally friendly effort especially because oysters act as water-filtration systems, making it important to monitor and protect their habitat.
A Lowcountry Coastal Treasure
The historic towns of Beaufort and Bluffton have long been known for their connection with the incredible, edible oyster. Many of Beaufort’s stately homes in the historic district have tabby foundations, a construction material made from oyster shell. Oyster canneries operated in Beaufort and Bluffton in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and streets on Lady’s Island still bear the names Oyster Factory and Factory Creek, indicating where the cannery operations were.
You can still enjoy fresh South Carolina oysters from the May River at the Bluffton Oyster Company, established in 1899. Demand is high for South Carolina oysters because of the May River’s reputation for pristine waters and a better tasting product. Nearby is the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park on Wharf Street, a great place for launching a kayak on the May River.
Here are some upcoming events that include an oyster roast as part of the festivities:
• Annual Bluffton Rotary Oyster Roast: Saturday, January 21, 2017, Oyster Factory Park
• 34th Lowcountry Oyster Festival: Sunday, January 29, 2017, Boone Hall Plantation, Mt. Pleasant
• The Beaufort Twilight Run: Saturday, March 18, 2017, Habersham Marketplace
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