Though oysters are called by many different names and may look and taste different, only two main varieties – Atlantic and Pacific, are harvested on a large scale in the United States. The other names – Blue Point, Chincoteague, Malpeque and Apalachicola, for example – simply refer to where they’re grown. The various marine plants they feed on account for differences in flavor and appearance.
Though available year-round, oysters are at their best in late fall and winter (months with “R” in the spelling). During the summer, spawning yields an oyster that is weaker with a high water content.
Atlantic oysters (also called Eastern or American) are commercially harvested wild on the coasts of Nova Scotia, Maryland, Virginia and the Gulf coasts of Florida and Louisiana.
Pacific oysters are generally harvested in cultivated beds from northern California to British Columbia and were planted from Japanese seed in the early 1920’s. Other varieties include Olympia (native to Washington state), Kumamoto (native to Japan and grown on the west coast), European Flat, and Chilean.
The warm waters of the Gulf coast enable harmful bacteria to grow at a rapid rate. As a result, Gulf coast Atlantic oysters at Wholeys are pasteurized by the AmeriPure process. This process utilizes a brief warm water bath that kills virtually all harmful bacteria. The process does not involve chemicals or irradiation and yields an oyster that is raw but not alive. It maintains the texture, improves the taste, and extends the freshness of raw oysters.