Aug 25, 2010

Enjoying Oysters in Apalachicola, Florida

Oysters never appealed to me and I have been able to avoid them until our recent trip to Apalachicola. We are at a house party where they had piles of oysters harvested that day. I could not avoid trying them so I had to practice what I preach. To my surprise they were delicious.

John went out on a tour where he learned how the fishermen have been harvesting oysters for hundreds of years. It is hard work and they go out in all kinds of weather. Long poles that resemble rakes hinged in the middle are used to scoop up clumps of oysters. Oysters like to live where fresh water from rivers meets the salt water so Apalachicola is perfect. Amazingly, an oyster can pump and filter at least 25 gallons of water in 24 hours. Interestingly from 1880 to 1920 New York State was the oyster capital of the United States.

Apalachicola is just one of the small quaint towns in Franklin County an hour’s drive south of Tallahassee. I didn’t think we were “Florida” people. But we loved the area around Apalachicola. It is what Florida used to be like. Franklin County is eighty-seven percent national preserves, state forests and protected lands with virtually deserted pristine beaches, and something for everyone – fishing, kayaking, museums, shopping, golf, swimming, or doing absolutely nothing. It is the last vestige of Old Florida, a Florida that does not exist anywhere else – no high rise hotels, no traffic congestion making it the ideal place to relax, kick back, and do whatever tickles your fancy.

We went to hear Bruce Drye talk about turtles and the nesting areas on the local beach. When the loggerhead turtle hatches it is only about two inches long but the adult loggerhead sea turtles are among the larger of the sea turtle species and weigh an average of 275 pounds. There are several volunteer groups that try to protect the sea turtles and their nests. “Sea turtles migrate between nesting areas and foraging areas, often traveling hundreds, even thousands of miles to reach a desired location. Some individual turtles that nest in Franklin County may travel as far as the coast of Central or South America to forage before returning to nest,” Mr. Drye explained. He also said, “Turtles are not decision makers. They operate on instinct so if people leave the lights on in their house the baby turtles head toward the house instead of to the sea and if there are beach chairs and other things in the way they get trapped.” Our lovely villa on the beach on St. George Island had instructions about what to do to protect the turtles during nesting time.

On an historic tour of we learned that in 1837 the Orman House was built near Syracuse then unassembled and prepared for shipping. It traveled by sailing ship to Apalachicola where it was reassembled. It was a similar situation with the Episcopal Church, which was built near White Plains, NY, and shipped to Apalachicola, where over 900 historic homes and buildings are in Apalachicola’s National Historic District.