Meetup: Greenport Oyster Farm Tour & U-Shuck

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Little Creek Oyster Farm Market
Photo: Little Creek Oyster Farm

I’m excited to announce another oyster farm field trip! On Saturday, Sept 6th, we’ll be heading to Greenport for an oystercentric day with some of New York’s leading watermen. I’ve been talking to these folks for a few months now, and they can’t wait to share their stories and knowledge about our favorite bivalve. Here’s an approximate schedule for how the day will work:

8:45 am Meet at the Hampton Jitney stop at 44th St & 3rd Ave.
9 am Hampton Jitney will depart Manhattan.
11:35 am Arrive in Greenport.
12 pm We will divide the group in 2. Half of the group will go to Little Creek Oyster Farm’s new U-Shuck market, where each person will receive one dozen oysters to shuck. If you aren’t confident about shucking or don’t know how, this is a great opportunity to learn! The other half of the group will go on a 45 min harbor cruise on the Glory. Captain Dave is definitely an old salt, and he can’t wait to share his stories and passion for crassostrea virginica, and his method for super safe shucking with us.
1 pm I will be picking up pizza from Rolling in Dough and bringing it to the market. We will have a light lunch on the picnic tables there.
1:30 pm The second group will attend the harbor tour, while the first group shucks their oysters.
3 pm We will walk to Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm to visit Mike and Isabel Osinski, see their farm operation and sample their oysters. (Some of you may recall a previous trip to Widow’s Hole a few years ago.)
5:50 pm Depart Greenport.
8:30 pm Arrive in Manhattan.

The cost for this trip will be $101.75, which includes transportation to/from Greenport, a dozen oysters at the Little Creek Oyster market, a harbor tour on the Glory, pizza lunch, and a tour and sampling at Widow’s Hole. We have 18 spots available, so if you’re interested, sign up now because historically farm trips have been very popular. Note: There will be no refunds for this trip, so please be confident you can make it before signing up.

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/New-York-Oyster-Lovers/events/200749072

Please bring your own water, camera, sunscreen and feel free to bring extra food/drinks for yourself or to share. The Osinskis have encouraged us to bring wine to Widow’s Hole. You’ll also have the opportunity to order additional oysters at the market if you’d like.

See you there!

Captain Dave
Photo: Newsday

Widow's Hole
Photo: Widow’s Hole

Recipe: Octopus Risotto

Octopus Risotto
Photo: W&T Seafood

What do you do with an abundance of octopus? Last year, I forayed into the age old dilemma of how to tenderize an octopus. After a successful slow roast, I had a lot of cooked octopus on my hands, along with some gelatin-laden octopus pan juices. Some of the octopus I diced and used in takoyaki (fried octopus balls). Then I started thinking about the leftover octopus juice and what that could be used for. How about for risotto?

The following is a basic risotto recipe, only with the substitution of octopus juice for some of the broth. You can adjust this more or less to taste; just be careful as the juices are naturally salty and you don’t want the dish to become too salty. If you are looking for ways to jazz up risotto with seafood, this is a fun, fancy-sounding dinner that is actually quite easy to make.

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Meetup: “Just Back From France” Dinner at Left Bank

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fish

Summer travel season is here, and our thoughts naturally turn to to seaside villages and lazy Riviera afternoons. But you won’t have to jet across the pond to capture that spirit if you come to this NY Oyster Lovers Meetup event! We’ll be meeting at Left Bank (117 Perry St at Greenwich St) on Tues, August 19th at 6:30 pm for a dinner themed “Just Back from France.” Chef Laurence Edelman (formerly at Mermaid Oyster Bar) is someone who was “born to love oysters,” and we are thrilled to present the following oyster-centric menu from him:

Eastern Oysters on the Half Shell

Baked Stuffed Oysters, Mustard, Spinach Cake

Soup de Poisson, Rouille, Gruyere

Pan-Seared Boulette, Potato Puree, Fried Oyster Salad

Parisian Chocolate Mousse, Market Berries, Cream

RSVP and More Details: http://www.meetup.com/New-York-Oyster-Lovers/events/195300962/

For some lovely photos and quotes from Chef Edelman, do check out Julie Qiu’s interview with him: http://www.inahalfshell.com/interview/chef-laurence-edelman

See you there!

An Oyster Hatchery Grows in New York City

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Oyster Reef Ecosystem Drawing

For the last year, I’ve been cultivating a small oyster garden in NYC Harbor as part of the NY/NJ Baykeepers oyster gardening program. It has been a journey full of unexpected delights, failures and mysteries.

This year, the oyster gardening program has been rolled into the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative run by the Harbor School Foundation. The Billion Oyster Project works with students and teachers in NYC to educate them on the ecology and economics of their local watersheds. The goal is to restore one billion oysters back to New York Harbor within 20 years. If that sounds like a grand, impossibly lofty undertaking, consider that oysters once covered hundreds of miles of shoreline along the Eastern seaboard, and after European colonists arrived, more than half a billion oysters were harvested each year through the first half of the 19th century! So restoring a billion oysters back to their historic home is really a drop in the bucket compared to the teeming masses of oyster reefs that used to line the harbor.

My first task was to remove last season’s oysters from my cage and return them to the Billion Oyster Project. This is what 300 juvenile oysters in a backpack looks like:

In the past, there have been concerns raised by local governments about the safety of the oyster gardens and their vulnerability to poaching. Oysters raised in NYC Harbor are not safe for consumption, and the fear is that someone might try to steal and resell the oysters. NJ even went so far as to ban all research-related shellfish gardens. To alleviate some of those worries, this year the Billion Oyster Project is moving to using oyster shellstock (clusters), rather than oyster singles (the nicely manicured single oysters you see at the raw bar).

Oyster shellstock

Here, you can see that small, thumbnail sized oysters have settled on larger pieces of oyster shell. As the oysters grow, they won’t be as pretty as oyster singles, but they will be equally valuable in cleaning and filtering our waterways. The clusters are also perfect for Southern-style oyster roasts.

The Billion Oyster Project and Harbor School is headquartered on Governor’s Island, where New York City’s first and foremost oyster hatchery is located. After volunteers arrived for oyster garden training day, Sam Janis led us on a tour of the facilities.

Inside these quietly burbling tanks, 5 million oyster larvae were looking for places to set. And what’s the best place for an oyster to settle? On an oyster! It makes sense that if another oyster were successful in a given location, another oyster would do well in the same area. Plus, it’s easier for oysters to spawn and fertilize larvae if they are located near other oysters. To mimic those natural conditions, bags of cleaned oyster shells are placed in the setting tank, where they’ll attract microscopic oyster larvae.

So, what do you feed growing oysters? You might remember from our tour last year at Taylor Shellfish’s hatchery that every hatchery not only grows oysters, but algae. Here, you see the algae tanks that will be used to keep the oysters full and happy.

After touring the facilities, we all got to work building oyster cages. I was never expert at arts & crafts as a kid, and quickly screwed up my oyster cage by cutting off 2 extra inches on the first panel. Oops. Luckily, metal is malleable and we were able to MacGyver a fix for my asymmetric (but still functional!) oyster cage.

Afterwards, we each counted out 300 oysters for our cages and were given instructions on how to log our data and use the water quality monitoring kit. With my new oysters in tow, I returned to my cage site and dropped the oysters into their new home. I also shortened the rope a bit to raise the cage further away from the seafloor (and predators).

We’ll see how this year’s oyster crop goes!

Meetup: Oyster Shucking Workshop & Dinner

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Oyster Shucking

Maybe you love eating oysters, but do you also know how to shuck them? It’s not difficult and it’s not dangerous, especially when you’ll be getting guidance from some of New York’s most enthusiastic ostreaphiles! On Monday, June 23, we’ll be meeting in Soho from 6:30–8:30 pm for a shucking workshop and the opportunity to learn about oyster buying and eating at home. Each person will get 10 oysters to shuck, and there will be sandwiches, salads and other items to fill out a light supper. You can get all your burning oyster questions answered, such as: how do I shop for oysters, how do you tell a boy oyster from a girl oyster, and what’s up with the “no oysters in months without an R” adage?

Many of you are already experts at shucking, so if that’s the case, come in to show off your skills and help teach the newbies.

In a nutshell: You’ll get 10 oysters, dinner, wonderful oyster-centric conversation AND be able to show off your awesome shucking skills after this Meetup!

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/New-York-Oyster-Lovers/events/184193052/

This event will be $27, and the Meetup is currently capped at 18, so sign up today before we’re out of space! Note: refunds will not be issued for this event, so please be confident that you can make it.

See you there!

Oyster Garden: Who Will Survive?

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Oyster cage

We’ve had a wet winter and chilly spring here in New York, one that has stymied the plans of gardeners and farmers hoping to get an early start to the growing season. While they aren’t plants dependent on photosynthesis, oysters do go dormant in winter months and depend on warm waters to grow. With the frigid temperatures we’ve been having, I’ll confess that I didn’t visit the oyster garden as regularly as I would have liked. Luckily, the cage was still intact where I left it in December.

Oyster farming 2014 (2)

April is the last mandatory data collection month for the oyster gardening season, so I invited members of the NY Oyster Lovers Meetup to join me for the final count. I pulled the cage onto the dock, and was relieved to see there weren’t too many sea squirts or other biofouling.

Brine shrimp

We did find a few stray brine shrimp inside the cage. Extremely local popcorn shrimp, anyone?

Oysters

Here’s the surviving oysters, a measly collection of 18 bivalves valiantly hanging on. You may recall that the sample pool began with 50 oysters last July, which fell off to 24 by December. So, the mortality rate for the Dec-April period was not as harsh as the fall, but it is still sobering to have a 64% of your oysters dead. The average length of the surviving oysters was 54.4 mm in April, down slightly from 54.5 mm in Dec. In July, the oysters were an average length of 41.5 mm, so we can see that the cold winter waters definitely stalled growth.

I’ll be picking up the cage in June and returning the oysters to the Baykeepers program. Hopefully, all of the surviving oysters will still be kicking around, shells closed, at that point!


Previously:
Oyster Garden: The Numbers Are In
Oyster Garden Tales: A Cage Full of Worms
Oyster Garden Tales: Invasion of the Sea Squirts
Oyster Garden Tales: What Are These Little Squirts?!
How Does Your Oyster Garden Grow?