In 2017, Nantucket’s Natural Resources Department constructed a wild oyster reef out of recycled oyster shell to facilitate new growth and improve overall harbor water quality. This reef will be studied for years to come and examine biodiversity of the reef area, oxygen quality in the water and more.
Photo Credit: Dan LeMaitre
HISTORY AND TRADITION
Once abundantly found on Nantucket in marsh areas, creeks, harbor waters and more, the population of this modern day delicacy has unfortunately been subject to years of over-harvesting. Few can still be found attached to pilings and rocks in harbor areas, but the majority are now grown on oyster farms in the north end of harbor where their biological function of filtering water as a way of survival actually benefits overall harbor health. Each of these amazing creatures are truly fundamental to Nantucket’s ecosystem, filtering and purifying as much as 30 gallons of water a day.
Oysters prefer to grow on top of other oyster shell, or any matter that is calcium carbonate, but will also attach to rocks, wood and other hard surfaces. Depleted from over-harvesting, a keen eye may occasionally spot these elusive wonders in Sesachacha Pond, on the jetties in the harbor or just off Easy Street Boat basin. The town of Nantucket allows just five licenses a year during their harvesting season, but it’s fair to say the only ones you will enjoy in a restaurant or at home have been farm-grown.
Oysters can be enjoyed in a number of ways, but a favorite of the Nantucket community is to be served raw on the half shell paired with a house-made mignonette, a type of rice wine vinegar based accompaniment.