Oysters, an Aphrodisiac Through the Ages

  • english.chosun.com

    November 24, 2011 07:32

    Consummate womanizer Casanova ate 12 in one sitting and often tucked in four times a day, while records show that French novelist Balzac downed an astonishing 1,444 of them in one go. Napoleon and Bismark also found these fruits de la mer an irresistible aphrodisiac.

    These men, who all lived remarkable and impassioned lives, shared a common infatuation with oysters. And there may have been biological reasons why. Humans need to consume zinc on a daily basis, especially men: a zinc deficiency decreases sperm count and reduces the body's ability to secrete testosterone.

    Oysters contain vitamins and a lot of zinc, as well as calcium, iron, phosphorous, copper, iodine and magnesium -- all minerals that are beneficial to the human body. Oysters have less protein than fish, but contain more essential amino acids than beef. They also happen to be low in calories, making them one of the best health foods available.

    Oysters are also delicious, a characteristic helped by the presence of amino acids such as glycine and glutamine. Our tongues associate amino acids with sweet and delicious tastes.

    Oysters' amino acid content also increases as the weather gets colder. That is why they tend to taste better in late autumn and through winter. There are 30 different types of oysters, but most of those found in street markets have been grown in hatcheries.

    Farms for these beloved mollusks, which ever so occasionally yield precious pearls from within their clutches, have existed since around the end of the 19th century. Nowadays, most of them can be found along the southern coast of Korea in Tongyeong, Geoje and Yeosu. Natural oysters are usually caught in the West Sea.

    According to the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, oysters, whether grown in fish farms or caught in the ocean, all fall into the Pacific oyster category. Their shapes and tastes vary depending on the environment in which they live.

    Organizers of the Cheonbuk Oyster Festival, which opens on Saturday for a week run, explain the difference in taste between the bred and caught varieties.

    "The ones caught at sea have longer shells that have wavy lines as they adapted to the tides while living on rocks in the mud flats," they said. "Oysters that have been bred in fish farms have round shells with no watery lines on them."

    "And oysters that have lived in the wild are smaller, since they were exposed to the sun for hours during low tide. They grow about 5 cm a year, while oysters raised in farms grow up to 10 cm a year as they absorb more nutrients due to having been submerged all the time."

    In terms of nutrition, there is no major difference between the two. But when it comes to taste, oysters caught in the ocean are considered better. Although they are not as big, they contain more concentrated flavors and scents. That is why oysters that have been exposed to seawater have an edge in terms of taste.

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