Tomahawk (Shinnecock)

Dec 02, 2010

Ages ago, the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island grew oysters by capturing the free-swimming larvae on branches they placed in Shinnecock Bay, then moving the tiny spat to safer salt ponds for growout. Today, the Shinnecock are again raising oysters in their bay, just south of Southampton, only this time using modern plastic trays that they place in the bay. When the oysters are old enough to withstand predation, they are moved to the bay bottom, where they are exposed every low tide, which causes them to, ahem, clam up. This daily Pilates gives the oysters nice, strong “eyes”—the central muscle that provides a lot of an oyster’s sweetness and chewiness. The intense tides also bring lots of food past the oysters, allowing them to grow to market size in just a year or so—about twice the normal rate.

The result? A noticeably chewy, medium-sized oyster with moderate salinity, decent body, and pretty jade shells with brick-colored swirls. I have no idea what accounts for the almost volatile, celery & sagebrush finish, but I like it. Look for Tomahawk, a trademarked brand of Shinnecocks. (Not to be confused with the old Tomahawks, which were grown by the Wampanoag tribe on Martha’s Vineyard and have been defunct for several years.)

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