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Can You Eat Shellfish When There Is An ‘R’ In The Month?

Do you know that there is a rule about eating shellfish when there is an ‘R’ in the month? It is an accepted old wives' tale but where does it come from?

By Cookist

There is a rule that states people should only eat shellfish when there’s an ‘R’ in the month.

The strange practice is from an old wives' tale that has survived the ravage of time. According to the rule, we should only have delicious oysters, clams, and mussels from September through to April and stop consuming them completely between May and June!

Where does the curious lore originate and is there any truth to the claims? Keep reading to find out.

The origins of the curious tale

In 1599, Englishman Henry Buttes authored a cookbook he called Dyets Dry Dinner. It advised readers on consuming oysters in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many have accepted this as the source of the tale, but a few have traced it back even further into the past and have suggested it has its roots in an ancient Latin saying.


However, a recent study has stated that for 4,000 years people have been eating shellfish when there’s an ‘R’ in the month.

The study analysed a large shell ring off the coast of Georgia, and discovered that the ancient inhabitants of St. Catherine’s Island only scheduled their oyster harvest for the non-summer months.

It was a practice rooted in common sense. Back then they had no refrigeration to preserve the seafood so they would quickly spoil in the summer heat.

Moreover, the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere are traditionally spawning seasons for oysters. This means that the vast majority of their energy at that period is geared towards reproduction, causing the meat within the shells to be often unpleasantly thin and stringy.

As a result, it made more sense to avoid catching and eating oysters in the warm summer months when they were busy reproducing.

Is the ‘R’ rule still relevant today? 


When people first started avoiding shellfish in the summer months, it was chiefly because they had no means to preserve them and the fact that the meat was less desirable due to the spawning season.

However, things have changed in the 21st century. There are refrigerating and freezing techniques that allow oysters to be harvested and then preserved for much longer periods without spoiling.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore the seasonality of shellfish. Eating shellfish and other fish that are in season is a budget friendly way of enjoying seafood and it will also allow you to vary your diet.

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