Next in Our Imagine Series: Oysters


June may not be spelled with an “r”, but I have an oyster story for you…

Back in the ‘90s, a man named Skip had a taste for oysters and a hunch that the muddy, windswept flat just north of Cape Cod would be the ideal spot for tidal nutrients to nourish his perfect bivalve.

Now it’s 2015, and on one pleasantly breezy afternoon in late June, we had the good luck to visit his now-famous oyster farm, Island Creek – witness his breeding process, meet the dock workers, and tour the “beds”.   There was even the promise that we could slurp oysters to our heart’s content. And they weren’t lyin’.

Before we got to eat these oysters, though, we wanted to learn a bit about the 2-year process from seed to slurp. Duxbury Bay waters are too cold for natural spawning, so the process starts in sheds on the dock.  Skip hand-picks what he considers to be the “American Pharoah” of oysters. He sets these adults in isolation tanks where perfectly regulated warm waters foster their spawning. On their road to becoming delicious gastronomic treats, these early sand-like embryos graduate from tank to tank as they grow in microns of inches.   Along the way, they are fed with a rich soup of plankton, grown right on premises and mimicking the nutrient cocktails of various prime venues from Nova Scotia to Seattle. Here is the genesis of the oyster’s complex flavor, which will be finished off with a distinctly Duxbury essence as they grow to full size out in the bay.

At last it was time to head out on the water.  We set out with the tide, nearby boats resting on their sides in the mud where only 3 hours before, they had bobbed about.   These tidal ebb and flows that Skip had recognized as an essential quality for his oyster farm are the same currents that now swept our craft off the dock.    We motored through some of the 30 farms that now operate here in Duxbury and before long, reached our destination, Oyster Creek’s farm-side buoy and our on-the-water dining room for the afternoon.

After dropping anchor, our guide CJ went from boat captain to master shucker.   He started with an oyster-shucking primer: Don protective shucking gloves. Find the little niche in the point of the oyster.   Wiggle in the blade of your oyster knife. Listen for a “pop”. Then turn the blade a quarter turn. The juicy treat lies plump and white inside the pearly shell.

Island Creek’s oysters were indeed as plentiful as promised.  And as fresh! No cocktail or mignonette sauce was needed. The oyster’s flavor revealed the briny water of their nursery and mirrored the salty breeze that cooled our al fresco dining room.   As I slurped them directly from the shell, tossing the shells overboard, juice dripped down my chin. Sips of Pinot Grigio created a party in my mouth. And the boat rocked on the rising tide.

If you want a seat at this exclusive oyster feast, you’ll have to call early, in a month that does have an “r”, like  March.


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