Chincoteague Virginia is well known for its excellent quality oysters. The island is a maze of oyster bars and reefs, both natural and man made. The clean salty ocean water provides and ideal environment for the growth of oysters and other shellfish.
The oysters that grow around Chincoteague Island are known as Eastern, Atlantic or Virginia oysters (Crassostrea Virginica). They are designated as the state shell of Virginia.
Oysters are a good source of Protein, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus. They also contain Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium.
Oysters and Chincoteague have a long history, as the industry has thrived here since colonial times. Chincoteague was once a major producer of oysters, with the product being exported in tremendous numbers by sailing vessel, wagon, and rail. The oyster industry is still thriving and oysters are available locally and nationally. Much more information about Chincoteague Island's history and oysters is available at the local Oyster and Maritime Museum on Maddox Blvd.
Chincoteague Island is home to a successful aquaculture industry which also includes production of both oysters and clams. Virginia Marine Resources Commission regulates oyster aquaculture operations. Chincoteague oyster aquaculture operations once consisted of areas of private property or leased beds where watermen maintained oyster bars which allowed new oysters to colonize and grow.
More recent aquaculture goes a step further to include seeded oysters that are grown in cages to protect the oysters from damage. Virginia Marine Resources Commission regulations allow oyster growers to install up to 250 cages per acre although restrictions prevent oyster aquaculture operations from infringing on private docks or waterfront properties. Chincoteague Island oyster production often exceeds 250,000 oysters per year.
Chincoteague Island recognizes its' rich history and the importance of oysters and celebrates the delicacy each fall with the Chincoteague Island Virginia Oyster Festival. The festival, created by the chamber of commerce, features Chincoteague Island's famous oysters, clams, crabs, and other foods.
Oysters are prepared in many ways including single fried, oyster fritters, steamed oysters, oyster stuffing, oyster stew and even raw on the half shell. Visitors wishing to enjoy oysters at home can buy oysters in the shell or shucked. Local markets such as Capt. Zack's Seafood Carryouts carry fresh or cooked oysters and Chincoteague oysters are on the menu of almost every restaurant on the island.
Other island seafood includes lobsters, clams, crabs, scallops and fish such as flounder, sea bass, tuna, mahi mahi and others.
For more information on seafood including recipes, news and events visit Fresh Seafood
Submitted by: cin