Apalachicola has been called the oyster capital of the world with good reason. The Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico creating one of the cleanest estuaries in America. This is the environment oysters need to live and grow on the floor of the bay. They need the right mix of salt and fresh water.
For centuries as evidenced by shell mounds, oysters have thrived here. But these days the river is low. Two rivers originate to the north in Georgia and Alabama and combine to form the Apalachicola River, the largest waterway in the Florida Panhandle. Much of the river’s waters are used by the population of the city of Atlanta and by agriculture in Georgia. Life in the bay is threatened; oysters are diminishing. Oysters are available here but to a lesser degree than a few years ago.
A significant portion of people living in Franklin County depends on the health of the oyster business. Harvesting oysters is hard work whether shucking oysters, or scraping oysters with a long rake off the floor of the bay or working in another capacity. The average hourly wage in the county is seven dollars and thirty-seven cents. It’s hard to know what the future holds for harvesting and eating oysters in the area. It seems likely the previous plenty of oysters will not be part of life here again unless some radical changes in water use occur. A strong flow of fresh water in the Apalachicola River is required for healthy oysters.
Tourists come to this largely rural region at least in part to enjoy eating shellfish. I’m one of them. Oysters here are plump and sweet. And they are fresh. Those bought yesterday by members of our family and cooked in the evening were sold from a refrigerated trailer right on St. George Island, and brought in that morning or the day before by local fishermen. Those fishing companies still active are selling in nearby small towns, five or seven miles away. They also load refrigerated trucks to take oysters and other gifts from the gulf to Tampa, Jacksonville, or even Chicago.
Broiled Seafood Platter
Here’s the easy recipe for the home cooked oysters, scallops and shrimp.
Saute shallots, garlic, Old bay and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Toss seafood in the sauce, season with salt and pepper or other seasoning of your choice. Spread the seafood on flat cooking sheets. Broil three to five minutes or until the seafood is cooked to your taste.
Wow! What a treat!
We served our seafood with roasted asparagus, tossed garden salad, and clam chowder, made from clams gathered by a local seafood company at Alligator Point. Condiments at our table included hot sauce and prepared horseradish.
Thanks to an essay by Susan Cerulean “Robbing the River” in her new book Coming To Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in A Gulf of Change for the background information in this post.
If you would like this clam chowder recipe, prepared for a vegetarian diet, comment with your request and I will send it to you.