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Oysters R in season

Blue Canoe Oyster Bar (104 3rd St.): One

Blue Canoe Oyster Bar (104 3rd St.): One of the prettiest spots in the village, this eatery overlooks the harbor and Shelter Island beyond. Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Enjoying an icy platter of oysters on the half shell is one of summer’s greatest gustatory pleasures. But if you adhere to “Oysters R in Season," the adage that cautions against eating oysters in any month that doesn’t have an “r” in its name, you’re out of luck from May through August.

Then again, it’s not as if you don’t see oysters on plenty of summer menus.

To get the skinny on oysters, we turned to Plainview’s Sandy Ingber, executive chef of the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan.

“Oysters spawn when the water is warm,” he said, defining spawning as “spitting out their seeds to be fertilized.” Spawning oysters are not dangerous to eat, only unappetizing. “They can be dry, or they can be watery and mushy,” he said. “Either way they’re just not good to eat.”

Back in the days before refrigeration, Ingber explained, restaurants and markets were limited to whatever oysters were harvested in their immediate vicinity, but now oysters come to this area from all over the East Coast, and the West Coast as well. Even though most oysters spawn during the summer, the spawning process only takes four to six weeks. “There are so many oyster varieties available now,” Ingber said, “at any time there are always plenty that are not spawning.”

Right now, he said, a lot of the Peconic oysters are down for the count, but in the Great South Bay, plump, briny oysters such as Blue Points are being harvested.

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