It’s Not All About Lobster: Maine’s Flourishing Oyster Farms
As those who’ve had the happy experience will tell you, once you’ve tasted a Maine oyster, you’re pretty much hooked.
Enjoying Maine oysters is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, Native people gathered up tons of the shellfish, particularly on the brisk Damariscotta River, and left huge, riverside middens of empty shells. You can visit one today at Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site.
It’s on the Damariscotta where Maine’s recent oyster renaissance blossomed. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, dedicated marine scientists and fisher-folk began experimenting with new techniques and technologies on oyster farms in Maine. Dodge Cove Marine Farm, the state’s oldest working oyster farm, was founded on the river in 1977. Mook Sea Farm was started in 1985. Pemaquid Oyster Co. was founded a year later and Glidden Point Oyster Farm was started a year after that.
Today, Maine’s oyster farms are spread up and down the coast and rivers and is a major player in America’s oyster industry. With cold, clean water and innovative fisheries, Maine produces thousands of toothsome oysters with flavors that vary depending on where they were and how they were grown. Pemaquid describes their oysters as having ‘distinctive clean, salty and refreshing flavor’ while Mook says one of their oysters ‘start with a big briny kiss and finish with a sweet glow.’
What exactly makes Maine oysters so special? The husband-and-wife team of Eric Horne and Valy Steverlynck weighed in on the subject. Their company, Maine Oysters, Inc., harvests between 200 and 250 thousand oysters in a good year. Known by the name Flying Point Oysters and are known for their complex flavor with a hint of saltiness and a pronounced sweetness.
“It’s analogous to wine coming from different parts of a state or country,” Eric explains. “When people are out enjoying oysters, it’s really fun to try oysters from different locations.”
Valy was quick to add, “Because the oysters in Maine grow more slowly (due to the coldness of the water), they are a lot thicker and have much more meat inside the shell. They have incredible amounts of protein and very little fat. So they’re a very healthy source of protein.”
For information on more Maine oyster farmers and places to taste their wares, check out the Maine Oyster Trail.
Check here for more information on Maine Seafood.