St. Jude Farms on ABC News 4

Lowcountry company aims to make local oysters available all year

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GREEN POND, S.C. (WCIV) — With oyster season on the horizon and the demand for oysters on the half shell so high, a local company is trying to get the local industry to evolve.

During the warmer months, local wild oysters are busy spawning so their size is small and the look of the meat is not that appealing, which is one of the reasons locals don’t eat Lowcountry oysters in the months that don’t end with an “R.”

But St. Jude Farms is busy trying to prove that with the addition of oyster farms, people could change the time frame in which local oysters are ready to be consumed. 

“They’ll dump them in the hopper. This is a tumbler-grater; not only does it tumble the oysters, you can really fine mold what your single oysters will look like. It’s like getting your hair and nails at the beauty salon which gives you that nice round deep oyster,” said Danny Hieronymus, the operations manager at St. Jude’s Farms.

Location is extremely important for the oyster farms. Soon, a total of 750 oyster cages will be floating at the intersection of three waterways in the ACE Basin to give the oysters Charleston’s specific salt, flavor, and size.

“With the flow that we have there it’s kind of, what I refer to as the Kobe beef of oysters. They get a constant flow of food so they are constantly eating,” Hieronymus said.

What makes the triploid variety different than wild oysters is they have one extra chromosome resulting in a seed that does not reproduce — but they are not genetically modified. 

“These are not GMO. Basically, it’s a souped-up oyster. GMO is when you take two different species combine them to make something,” he said. “With this, they wanted to come up with a non-reproducing oyster so in the warmer months the meat does keep its integrity — they added more oyster to the oyster.”

St. Jude Farms will distribute over 100,000 oysters this season making it big business in Charleston. 

Restauranteurs say they are hungry to feed the local economy. 

“Why wouldn’t you want to sell local? That’s our oyster. They’re not physically ours but we take ownership. Those are ours, let’s eat our oysters,” said Amen Street Chef Adam Miller.

In the end, it’s providing Charlestonians and tourists with a taste unique and plentiful to the Holy City.

“If you move away from the coast and you come back, you have a taste of home you’ll always remember,” Miller said.

If oyster farms prove to be a consistent method for creating healthy, plump oysters, the next step to get local oysters available year round will be to get legislation changed.

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