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How eating these oyster dishes can help the James River

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The Water Dog
Posted at 12:57 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 06:34:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- If you love oysters, then participating in James River Week is as simple as a slurp.

Seven local restaurants -- most of which are located in Richmond -- are serving up some delectable oyster dishes and donating 10% of the sales to the James River Association (JRA) as part of James River Week.

Those dishes include everything from fried oysters and raw oysters on the half shell, to oyster shooters and oysters with crab imperial. Keep scrolling for the full plate lineup.

"Oysters for the James" is a collaborative effort between JRA and local restaurants to contribute to their mission of keeping the James River healthy and guarded.

The 10,000 miles of watershed affects millions of Virginians, JRA said.

According to JRA, the river provides water for 2.7 million citizens, but it also provides a substantial habitat for wildlife -- including oysters.

"As we celebrate the James River, it's important to elevate the special role that oysters play in both the gastrological and water quality sense," said Jamie Brunkow, James RIVERKEEPER® and Senior Advocacy Manager for JRA.

Oysters -- quite literally -- filter the water of the James, making them essential to the habitat and a "keystone" species.

"Like a keystone that is placed at the center of a building arch to maintain the structure's shape and stability, oyster reefs are central to providing the structure and habitat that is the basis for a wide array of species to exist," said Brunkow. "Just as the removal of the keystone causes the arch to collapse, the loss of oysters means the loss of an ecosystem and the water quality benefits oysters provide."

If these eating these bivalves are not your cup of tea, you can also support the oyster habitats of the James by helping to recycle oyster shells.

Oyster reefs need a hard bottom foundation, which typically is made up of old shells. JRA said recycling shells means putting this valuable resource back into the river to support the next generation of baby "spat" oysters.

Check out the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program, which provides shell drop off locations across Richmond.

If you do choose to eat these delicious oyster dishes, know that it doesn't just support the James River -- it also helps out local restaurants and the many commercial watermen across the Commonwealth.

And, as an added bonus, several of the participating restaurants are located on the James River with spectacular views.

Here's the full food lineup:

Alewife (Richmond): Raw oyster dish, as well as fried or roasted oyster dish

The Boathouse (Sunday Park, Rocketts Landing, Short Pump, City Point locations): The Boathouse Oysters w/ Crab Imperial: Locally-sourced oysters topped with crab, imperial sauce, and toasted breadcrumbs baked until golden brown

The Lilly Pad (Richmond): Oyster roast (9/18+9/19), Oyster shooter and Fried Oysters all week

Shagbark (Richmond): Roasted ‘Haven Gold’ Oysters: Edwards Virginia bacon, lemon, Hanover tomato, garlic spinach buttered cornbread, Tabasco sabayon

Southbound (Richmond): Fried oysters w/ old bay aioli

Craft 31 (Williamsburg): Raw oysters on the half shell

The Water Dog (Lynchburg): Any oyster dish!

James River Week is from Sept. 11 through Sept. 18. There are events all week long that support the James River and JRA. Click here to check them out.