Pine Island oysters from Oyster Bay

May 12, 2015

If there’s one oyster that should be at the top of every farm-to-table locavore in New York City, it’s Pine Islands, which have been sustainably “ranched” in Long Island’s Oyster Bay since the 1960s by Frank M Flower & Sons. The hatchery is right there, the nursery is right there, the bottomland is right there, and they are harvested using boats that have been in operation since the 1930s:

Flowers boats

They should be celebrated in every New York saloon, and eaten after every Yankees victory. Yet amazingly, Pine Islands don’t have much of a presence in the city. Why? I think they have simply been around too long, and are too old school, to be cool. Plus they are produced in quantities big enough to be handled by national distributors, rather than a couple of hipsters with reefer trucks. But come on, these things are literally harvested in Billy Joel’s front yard:











That yard just happens to be underwater, part of the 1,800 acres of bottomland Flowers & Sons leases. Harvest is done by vacuum dredge, which feels like a Rube Goldberg contraption:

Pine Island 1

The oysters (and all the muck that comes with them) get shot onto the top of the conveyor belts, then make their way through the system, getting sorted and culled, all while under sail. It’s pretty amazing. Equally amazing is the taste: Oyster Bay (which wasn’t named Oyster Bay by the Dutch settlers because it had a lot of clams in it, if you know what I mean) has an ideal 27 ppt salinity, and its oysters come out briny, savory, firm, and strong-shelled, unlike a few others from the Northeast (you know who you are, Guilty Parties). For all these reasons, it’s worth seeking out Pine Islands, and even lobbying your favorite oyster house to get a clue. If you’ve had Pine Islands, please weigh in at Oysterater.

Flowers & Sons burlap


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