Oyster Lovers Learn to "Shuck like a Pro"

The Oyster Recovery Partnership and Ryleigh's Oyster hosted oyster-shucking lessons for the public Thursday evening.

A mix of couples, young professionals, and families signed up to learn how to pry the rocky shells open and reach the slurpy goodness inside. Each person got a shucking knife, gloves for gripping, and a block of wood to shuck on. Fresh Sewansecott oysters from the Atlantic coast of Virginia's Eastern Shore came out over crushed ice. But they didn't arrive on the half shell, nicely shucked. It was up to the diners to get inside.

Dale German, an expert shucker and strong supporter of the Oyster Recovery Project (ORP), led the lesson, along with Ryleigh's Assistant General Manager Matt Kavanagh.

German announced, "There are only two rules: don't hurt yourself, and have fun!"

Students learned two approaches to shucking an oyster: from the bill (front) and from the hinge (back). German described how to slide the knife into the space where the top shell fits into the bottom shell ("It's always about seven o'clock"), cut the abductor muscle, and wiggle the knife to pry the shell open.

Along with shucking skills, participants also got a lesson in oyster restoration. ORP Education Program Manager Bryan Gomes gave a crash course on why oysters are in trouble (overharvesting, pollution from runoff), and their important functions in the Bay (water filters, habitat for other water life). Most were surprised to learn that about 90% of restaurants use farm-raised oysters.

Some of the oyster-shucking students felt more confident about their shucking skills at the end of the lesson, but others say they'll continue to leave the work to the pros. 

ORP is planning to hold another "Shuck like a Pro" event sometime this fall.

Megan Viviano