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September 17, 2012

Consider the oyster farmer

I’ve considered the oyster. I’ve considered it raw, I’ve considered it fried, I’ve considered it baked and oozing with cheese. But I’ve never considered how it was grown.*

On Saturday I got my chance. We took a day trip to Branford, CT, to visit my dad’s friend, Brendan, a writer, activist, commercial fisherman, and founder of the Thimble Island Oyster Company.

Several years ago, Brendan secured a long-term lease of 60 acres in Long Island Sound and began practicing a sustainable approach to maritime farming known as “3D.” Its guiding principle is the same that makes New York the most efficient city in the country: maximize vertical space. On the bottom he grows oysters, clams, and scallops; above, he grows mussels, kelp, and other seaweed. Not only is it highly resource-efficient — unlike land farming, ocean farming doesn’t require fresh water or fertilizers — but oysters and seaweed actively filter the waters of the Sound. (In fact, NYC is experimenting with employing oysters to clean up the harbor.)

We went out for a few hours so Brendan could show us how it all works. The first thing I noticed: oyster farming is messier than I expected. The cages sometimes bring up mud and lots of skittering critters — crabs, baby sand sharks, starfish, and snails (some of which we ate :). The second thing: though Brendan says oysters taste better the second day out of water — it gives them time to clean themselves out — there is nothing like an oyster straight from the ocean. Thimble Island oysters have copper shells and juicy, briny meat, as big as Gulf oysters. They’re great raw — and they’d make a hell of a po’ boy.

If you live in the area, consider signing up for Brendan’s CSF (Community Supported Fishery), find him on the docks the first Saturday of every month, or contact him for party orders.

Below, photos of the amazing afternoon….

* With apologies to the imitable M.F.K. Fisher.

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Notes from others:

  1. everywordshesays said: So cool!
  2. noraleah posted this