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Oysters in August: The Story Behind the “R” Month Rule

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Oysters in August: The Story Behind the “R” Month Rule
As the owners of Rappahannock Oyster Company and Rapp Session Restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, Travis and Ryan Croxton know a thing or two about debunking the "R" month myth.

There are a few commonly held misconceptions among foodies regarding certain aspects of the culinary world. While some are not based in fact (no, adding salt to a pot of water won’t bring it to a boil any faster), others are precepts that have been debunked with the passage of time. For oyster lovers, the best example of this is the states that oysters should be consumed only in months with an “r” in the name.

Much of the adage has changed thanks to modern refrigeration. The saying came about in the 1800s as a way to remind consumers that oysters could very easily have been held outside of safe temperatures in non “R” months, when bacteria could proliferate.

Ryan and Travis Croxton Oyster Cage
If you’re a fan of Virginia oysters, May and June might be some of the best months to eat Chesapeake Bay oysters as they’re pumping furiously after a long winter hibernation.

What’s kept the saying alive is that oysters spawn when the water temperature hits 75 degrees. During the spawn, the meat will degrade because the oyster’s energy is tapped for spawning. That happens generally once over the summer for about two weeks.

So why is this myth worth debunking? For one, it’s hard to imagine a summer along the Mid-Atlantic or Southern coast without shucking a few. If you’re a fan of Virginia oysters, May and June might be some of the best months to eat Chesapeake Bay oysters as they’re pumping furiously after a long winter hibernation. The water is still cool and they’re fat off their recent gorge.

Travis and Ryan Croxton, owners of Rappahannock Oyster Company and Rapp Session in Richmond, Virginia
Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton co-own Rappahannock Oyster Company

In need of a little Oyster 101? Check out our Q&A with cousins and co-owners of the Rappahannock Oyster Company, Ryan and Travis Croxton. Read it here.