Meet the shuckers

Some of the best oysters in the world, right here on the Vineyard.

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The nutrient-rich waters of Martha’s Vineyard hold a bounty of delicious seafood known worldwide for its freshness and unsullied quality. But there is one ocean treasure that may be one of the most quintessential delicacies of the Island — the oyster.

Oysters are a unique food. Eating an oyster has long been called “kissing the ocean on the lips,” and although there may be multiple reasons people use this phrase, it is clear that the journey an oyster takes from the briny waters of Vineyard Sound to the ice box is quite direct. 

The mouthwatering mollusks also have a long history on the Island. Jack Blake has been serving up decadent oysters from his Sweet Neck Farm since he moved away from construction in 1999, mentoring many of the principal oyster farmers who are thriving today.

Dan Martino and his brother, Greg, found out about oyster aquaculture after taking a tour of Sweet Neck Farm with Blake ,and were immediately hooked. “Jack had one of the prettiest products,” Dan said. 

The brothers worked with Blake seven years ago, learning everything they could about growing and harvesting delicious oysters from the fertile waters of Katama Bay. “The guy was an absolute open book. He really mentored us on his tried-and-true method of farming, and really wanted us to succeed,” Dan said. 

The Martinos went out on their own after parting ways with Blake, founding Cottage City Oysters in the cold waters of Vineyard Sound in Oak Bluffs. 

Martino wanted to push the boundaries of oyster farming and create a more up-close and personal relationship with his bounty. 

They decided to become the only open-ocean oyster farm in New England, and the first farm in Oak Bluffs. Instead of using “tidal upwellers,” which are machines that force nutrient-rich water up through the oyster silo (which suspends the oysters in the current) to feed them, Cottage City oyster farmers place their oysters in deep-water cages. 

As opposed to conventional methods of farming, where oysters are transferred to an upweller at the surface, Cottage City oysters stay submerged for almost the entirety of their three-year lifespan. 

The only times the oysters breach the surface are when they are cleaned and harvested.

“We handle the oyster hundreds of times throughout the process, and tend to take a more hands-on, artisan approach,” Dan said. The Martino brothers even play music for the oysters as they are traveling back to port. Dan describes his oysters as briny and fresh-tasting.

Cottage City does oyster tours, educational speaker sessions, catering for raw bars, and oyster tastings with Island establishments. 

It also sells delicious sugar kelp, littlenecks, shrimp, quahogs, and urchins, straight from the crisp waters of Vineyard Sound. 

Other Martha’s Vineyard Oyster Farmers

Spearpoint Oysters, Edgartown
Snow Point Oysters, Edgartown
Roysters, Edgartown
Signature Oysters, Edgartown
Honeysuckle Oysters, Edgartown
Blue Moon Oysters, Edgartown
Sweet Neck Oyster Farm, Edgartown
Menemsha Creek Oysters, Chilmark
Menemsha Pearl, Chilmark
Creekville Oyster, Chilmark
Chilmark Oyster Farm, Chilmark
Nashaquitsa Oyster Farm, Chilmark
Little Minnow Oyster Company, Edgartown

Would you like to add your farm to our online list? Let us know at onisland@mvtimes.com.

Taste the best at OysterFest

In May 2020, Farm. Field. Sea. (FFS) will collaborate with M.V. Shellfish Group and M.V. Vintage Wine and Spirits to bring to the Island a new seafood sensation — the OysterFest.

OysterFest will celebrate the history of oysters on Martha’s Vineyard, and highlight all the benefits oysters bring to the table.

It all started with the FFS oyster tours with Cottage City Oysters, but FFS founder Nevette Previd said she saw “such curiosity” about oysters that she decided there needs to be an event entirely focused on marvelous mollusks. 

“Healthwise and for the environment, oysters really do many amazing things. We want to share that with people,” Previd said.

Previd said the event will feature a live oyster exhibit, a discussion with off-Island oyster professionals, and local shellfish organizations and fishermen. 

“It’s a really great dynamic when you have national voices of shellfish pros, combined with local voices of experienced shellfishermen,” Previd said. “It makes for a robust and exciting conversation.”

Not only will visitors be able to learn all they can about oysters, but folks will be able to enjoy shucking contests, cooking demos, and other engaging programs at the 2020 OysterFest. 

Contact Nevette Previd at 508-687-9012 for more information, or send an email to eat@ffsmv.com.