During the holidays, homes across the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, will be serving oyster chowder. When the first English settlers came to New England, they saw mounds of shells discarded from the oysters Native Americans had eaten. The earliest treaties between the colonists and natives ensured the settlers access to oyster beds in the Native American’s fishing grounds.
Over time, settlers of all classes eventually began enjoying eating local shellfish as well. Oysters were eaten raw when they were fresh or they were roasted. Oysters became so popular on the Eastern seaboard, more than a billion oysters were harvested over a two year period during the 1880s.
Before refrigeration on trains became commonplace, the challenge was how to ship oysters from the East Coast to other parts of the country when it was not winter. Wrapped in wet straw and seaweed, oysters could remain edible for about two weeks. This is the reason oysters became associated with the holiday season in America.
As Irish immigrants came to the U.S. during the mid-1800s to escape famine, they brought their traditions, including abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve. Now in America, the Irish swapped the ling fish they would have used to make their chowder with oysters. The reason was oysters had the same briny taste as dried ling, which was preserved with a lot of salt.
Due to overharvesting, wild oyster populations have declined drastically throughout the United States to only 1% of their numbers in colonial times. Fortunately, lovers of oysters can still dine on this shellfish because they are now farmed on both coasts of our country.
The drastic decline of wild oysters has had a serious impact on Chesapeake Bay wildlife because oysters greatly assist in maintaining healthy water quality by eating microscopic algae. Over time, oyster beds also create reefs, providing crucial habitats for other animals and aquatic plants.
Seeking Super Seafood?
Lovers of super seafood, including fat, juicy crab, don’t have to drive to Baltimore, Ocean City, Hooper’s Island, or Annapolis anymore. Stay close to home and enjoy wonderful deliciousness all year around at the two locations below!
Our Crofton branch can accommodate a large party group, so if you are interested in reserving tables, please call (443) 302-2680.