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wet newspaper on top – they like the pressure resting on them, as this takes pressure off the muscle inside, which is trying to keep the lid closed.

Joe likes his

oysters with just a splash of lemon

never get them if they smell bad or have lots of silt on the shell. If you are unsure, just ask – your fishmonger should have all the answers you need to give you confidence when buying your oysters.

Where do the critters live? Can you forage for them like, say, mussels? They live all around the UK, but some areas are protected and oyster beds are very sought after. The methods used in gathering oysters need a very skilled hand, and it should not be attempted if you have not been shown how. Damage to beds could mean loss of livelihood, so please take care! One thing oysters do is filter anything in the water that comes their way, good and bad, so they need to be handled with care. All oysters sold in the UK have to pass stringent tests and are purged in holding tanks before going on sale. Wild oysters may seem harmless, and look fine, but you cannot tell what lurks within.

Got it. We’ll stick to the fishmonger, then. But where do the best oysters come from? The South West, of course! We are very happy with the Dorset Oyster Company, and the oysters from the Fal, which are caught within the Truro Port Fishery area in Cornwall, are always a big hit. Having said that, there are some excellent oysters found all over the UK, and Ireland too.

How should we be storing them, and how long for? Oysters are best eaten as soon as possible, but they should be fine for three days after purchase. The best way to store them is on wet newspaper with the curved, bowl shaped side down and the flat lid on the top. Keep them on the lowest shelf of the fridge with another bit of

Who knew? Okay, let’s do real talk now. Are they expensive? In Source we sell sustainably harvested Pacific oysters from £1.20 and Natives from £1.95 – which is great value when considering the goodness and flavour they contain.

How can you tell when an oyster is ‘bad’? We don’t want any disasters on Feb 14! If you have opened the oyster and you find it to be dry, or to have a bad smell, discard it. If you are unsure, drag a knife across part of the dark frill of the bottom part of the oyster. If the cut remains, and does not join back up straight away, this is an indication that the oyster may be dead – and is therefore not suitable for consumption.

Is there any chance of us finding a pearl in our oysters? Yes! We found one two years ago; it was small and not worth very much, though. There is actually another type of oyster which is bred specifically for its pearl.

Oh, now you’re talking! So how do you get into these bad boys, and what’s all this ‘shucking’ malarkey about? Caution is essential, as I have witnessed some gruesome accidents where insufficient care has been taken. A good-quality oyster shucker is only £5.50 and could save you stabbing yourself, so is well worth the investment. We give pointers on the best way to open these little beauties, either in store or at our festival.

Do you always have to eat them raw, or can you cook them? Raw is best in my opinion, but during our festival Ross, our chef, cooks them up a treat too. The most popular dish in 2013 was oyster tempura with a nice Vietnamese dressing.

Yum! How do you like to serve your oysters? Simply, with only one or two drops of fresh lemon juice. I feel that anything else takes away the natural flavour.

Should we chew or swallow? There are no rules; just go with whatever feels best.

Easy for you to say… Are they really aphrodisiacs? Try them and see for yourself! They certainly provide lots of good minerals for, er, well... a healthy life. Selenium, iron and zinc are all found in oysters, and are linked to certain hormones – while tests have proven them to have a great effect, apparently!

✱ The Source Oyster Festival returns for 2014, but dates are yet to be confirmed. Keep posted by signing up to the Source newsletter via the website

Chew or swallow, but never spit – how you down your oyster is up to you...


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