--Oysters are hermaphroditic, meaning they are both male and female, alternately assuming the egg- and sperm-producing functions of each sex.

--The rule about eating oysters only in months spelled with Rs is an old wives' tale, possibly springing from a French royal decree that banned harvesting during oyster propagation season.

--Oysters can be stewed, fried, pickled or canned, but devotees prefer to eat them raw, which — make no mistake about it — means live. "A fresh oyster on the half shell is no more dead than an ox that has been hamstrung," William K. Brooks wrote in an 1891 scientific study of the bivalve.

--Oysters nourish themselves by straining nutrients from seawater. In optimum conditions, the European flat oyster filters 1 liter of water an hour; the Portuguese 3 to 5 liters and the Japanese as many as 7 liters.

--Napoleon is said to have consumed oysters before every battle.

--The great Italian womanizer Casanova believed oysters had aphrodisiacal powers, an idea that persists. Is there any truth to it? Eat a dozen and see.

—Susan Spano