Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oysters–Cape Cod

The delectable oyster is an eating delicacy for most people when visiting Cape Cod. But for me...not so much.
I know that these tasty, sweet, salty oysters are very fresh, but only according to my fellow Cape Codders who eat them. I am told they live free here in the cold, clear waters of Cape Cod Bay instead of in controlled environments, which gives them a distinct culinary appeal.  Some even go so far to say they are the perfect food. So I decided to find out more about these ancient treats.

Here's a copper plate engraving by Tim of Cape Cod Bay oysters. (see above)

It was on a Wednesday, a few weeks ago, that I took another walk with the Eastham Hiking Club.
The morning was beautiful and warm with a soft breeze blowing across the flats of Brewster Bay.
I could see a pattern of black squares ahead of us on the beach. To the novice, from a distance, the proverbial question in their heads would be, "What is that out there?" But as I walked closer, metal cages became recognizable and I realized that I was standing within an oyster farm. It was interesting to see them up close, lined up low to the exposed ocean floor. Each one filled with various sizes of oysters.

Seaweed covered the tops of some of the growing cages.  The owners, Dave and Diane Carlson were there to answer our questions. They have over 200,000 oysters of different ages randomly mixed throughout the cages. They buy seed(2–3 millimeters in size) from a hatchery in Dennis, place them in mesh bags and into the cages where they will begin to grow. Their growth depends on water temperature (warm is best), and the amount of plankton and salinity of the surrounding water. Because of the large tidal surges on Brewster Bay, the oyster gets the benefit of two feedings of nutrient rich water every day. In fact, the oyster can filter 3-5 gallons of water an hour, adding no toxins to its growth. They are able to harvest 15,000 to 20,000 oysters a season. In the dead of winter, oysters are removed from the ocean and put into cold storage where they lay dormant, then in March or April, back to growing on the bay. It all sounds wonderfully fresh but I still can't get my head around to eating them. Oh well, to each his own.

I lingered a bit too long and the hiking group I was with went further out to the edge of the water. I looked back quickly to catch a glimpse of the oyster farm. You can see it in the distance.

I tried to capture on camera how far away the group was – you can see the hikers walking parallel with the shoreline.

 As I hiked across the tidal flats, I came across these weird blobs of jelly-like substances. Another hiker said not to worry, their not poisonous. They're just a nuisance to walk over.

 Here's a close up of them. Without fear of getting stung, I just barreled across the sand, probably stepping on several. Does anyone know what they are?

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