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Tasty Mutants: The Invention the Modern Oyster - Atlantic Mobile

Stashed in: Good Eats!, Under the sea!

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Over the past three decades, Allen’s patented innovations in oyster culture have transformed this old-fashioned industry. His monster: a sweet, plump morsel called the triploid oyster.

Natural oysters, like humans and most other eukaryotes, are diploid—each of their cells contains two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent. Allen’s innovation has been to create oysters with three sets of chromosomes. The uneven number results in a mostly infertile oyster that, because it doesn’t waste energy producing gametes—eggs and sperm—grows bigger and faster than natural oysters. That means they can be harvested earlier, before they’re affected by the diseasesthat have laid waste to natural oyster populations in places like the Chesapeake Bay and the estuaries of Normandy.

But the biggest advantage is that these triploids are fat and marketable year-round, even during the warm summer months when natural oysters tend to be unsavory, either because their bodies are comprised mostly of gonads, or because they become thin and watery after spawning.

These characteristics—higher yields and a viable summer product—are why farmed triploids have largely replaced naturally harvested oysters in the nation’s restaurants and oyster bars. Even though most of the oysters produced today are still diploids, the bulk of them are shelled and destined for the soup cannery or some other processed oyster product. That’s especially true for the wild-harvested oysters, which tend to grow in clumps and be misshapen. The lucrative trade in oyster on the half-shell laid out before restaurant goers, though, belongs increasingly to Allen’s fat, beautifully shaped triploids.

And, amazingly, he’s invented them twice.

Great article, full of marine biology:

"Their bodies are comprised mostly of gonads."

Well, there goes the appeal of ever eating one. 

Ha ha!!

Eschew the natural ones;  eat only the unnatural oyster!

That's as good a marketing campaign as I can think of!

By unsavory they mean dangerously and toxically unhealthy?   Oysters should never be eaten in the US in months without an 'r' in them.

Not even the synthetic ones grown in oyster farms?