Farm fresh oysters at the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis
There are many styles and schools of thought about how to farm oysters; all fairly consistent in that they utilize mesh bags, cages and racks to keep the oysters collected within each farmer’s ‘grant,’ the acreage assigned by the town where they can attach their gear and grow oysters from small seed stock to maturity. The process Lowell utilizes is slightly different from her neighboring farmers’ choices. She starts the miniscule seed in raised mesh tubes called Seapa Baskets. Lowell says the oysters that have become so popular at the Naked Oyster have a deeper, more defined ‘cup’ in the oyster shell instead of a flatter shell that might occur in other processes. “The baskets swing with the currents,” she explains, “and the young oysters bump against them chipping off the perimeter of the shell, like a fingernail.” That repeated motion concentrates the growth of the muscle toward the center resulting in a firm, plump oyster that floats in a sweet, briny puddle of ocean.
Known as “Flo” on the flats, perhaps because of the ebb and flow of the tides, Lowell has only one client for her produce: herself. “Since we only produce for the restaurant, we approach the harvest differently than if we were selling the stock,” she says. “We inspect each oyster and choose only what we expect to need for the next day or two. We take only the best. If it isn’t ready it goes back until it’s perfect.” Each year she buys 250 to 400,000 seeds and incorporates that new stock into the grant. Over a typical season, she harvests over 110,000 oysters for the Naked Oyster. She has been working her grant for almost a decade and like most farmers of any crop, it is not a fair weather hobby. Her efforts are always dictated by the tide schedule and it is a 12-month activity. She says January and February can be brutal, but focuses on the positive when she says there are always nice days even in those months.
A meal at Naked Oyster is always a feast for the soul, but understanding the commitment and effort Florence Lowell brings to the entire experience makes it that much more fulfilling.
Love oysters, but don’t love opening them? Our friends at Aw Shucks have a solution for you. Visit www.awshucksoysteropener.com
Check out this Strawberry & champagne mignonette recipe, courtesy of the Naked Oyster!
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