National Geographic : 1913 Mar
Photo from Dr. Hugh M. Smith OYSTER GROWING ON A PIPE The oyster is so large and the pipe so small that at first sight it would hardly seem possible that the oyster grew from a little disc only about one-twentieth of an inch in diameter. While the young oysters are in the free-swimming stage they are even smaller, being about I/I50th part of an inch long and almost transparent. "FLOATED" OYSTERS MAY BE DANGEROUS A prevalent practice among oyster growers in some sections is to transfer oysters from salt water to brackish or less dense water for a short time before shipping to market, with the object of making them take on an illusive appear ance of fatness by the rapid absorption of fresher water, while the more saline fluids in the tissues slowly pass out. This process, known as plumping, floating, or fattening, results in a swelling of the oysters to the full capacity of the shell, but adds nothing to their nutritive value or flavor. On the contrary, it extracts certain nutritious ingredients and re places them with water. Chemical tests have shown that this sadly misnamed process of "fattening" deprives the oys ters of o1to 15 per cent of their food value, while increasing their weight from 10 to 20 per cent. A similar result is seen when oysters are placed in fresh water or brought into contact with melt ing ice after removal from the shell. More serious, however, than the loss of nutritive properties is the danger from contamination by pathogenic bac teria when the floats are situated within the range of sewers or other sources of pollution. It is well known that oysters imbibe disease germs with their food, and such germs may be taken into the human body with their vitality unimpaired and give rise to sickness. Epidemics of ty phoid fever have been definitely traced to "floated" oysters which were un doubtedly innocuous when taken from the salter water, It will thus be seen that this feature of oyster growing is not commendable, and is necessarily prejudicial to the best interests of the industry. The growth of the practice has been due to the igno rance of the public; its continuance after its undesirable nature has frequently been shown is a sad commentary on our intelligence. OYSTERS ON THE PACIFIC COAST While the entire east coast of North America has but a single species of oys ter, the Pacific coast has five or six native species, and has been further en riched by the one from the Atlantic. The most abundant of the native spe cies, found in all the Pacific States, is very small and has a strong flavor. It is never served on the half shell, but is eaten in bulk, one hundred or more oysters often being a "portion" for one person. The largest and best occur in Willapa Bay, Washington.