We have no official state fruit. We have no state vegetable. But we do have a designated state shell. Yes, the official state shell of the Commonwealth is the Virginia oyster (also known as an Eastern or Atlantic oyster). So why the oyster shell? As the country’s third largest seafood producer, for hundreds of years our watermen have made their living harvesting blue crabs, scallops, croaker, spot catfish and, of course, lots of oysters. In fact, Virginia is the largest producer of farm-raised oysters in the country. Oysters are so abundant that in a recent 10-year span (2001-2011) the harvest of fresh oysters grew tenfold from 23,000 to 236,000 bushels. And gone is the rule about eating oysters only in months which include an “R.” Today, thanks to new aquaculture techniques, quality oysters are now available all 12 months of the year. Did you know Virginia oysters have many different tastes even though they are the same species? Because oysters take on the flavor of the water in which they are grown and harvested, the flavors of Virginia oysters range from sweet to salty and even buttery. Their texture and look also vary based on the body of water in which they were raised. This fall celebrate all the shapes, sizes and tastes of Virginia and attend one, or all, of these 4 events; the Bay Seafood Festival - Sept. 6, 2013, the Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival - Oct. 12, 2013, the Urbanna Oyster Festival - Nov. 1-2, 2013 and the Oyster Roast at Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery - Nov. 9-10, 2013.