Oyster framer Skip Bennett is founder of Island Creek Oyster, which is credited with starting the oyster farming resurgence two decades ago in Duxbury Bay. The wholesale and retail company grows and supplies oysters to more than 400 chefs across the U.S. and also operates its own restaurants and oyster bars. Bennett talked to Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about his latest harvest and working the tidal beds.
“We sell about 120,000 oysters a week, which adds up around 6 million oysters a year. That’s not just our own oysters, but also other growers up and down the East Coast. It’s been a good year for oysters, although as with all farming, there’s always something. We did so well with the seed last year that we over-planted a bit, which can give the oyster a funny shape. The ideal oyster is compact, around 2 1/2 to 3-inches, with a deep cup so there’s a lot of meat inside. Our Island Creek oysters are a little non-traditional because they’re round and very fluted, and of course they have a unique flavor profile – super briny up-front with a vegan sweetness and a buttery finish. We have our own breeding program and have gone from a wholesale business to e-commerce – and now we are running our own “farm-to-table” restaurants. Farming shellfish gets a bad rap but it’s one of the most sustainable ways to grow protein, and I believe that aquaculture is one way of solving the global food production issue. When I first started Island Creek back in the nineties, only a handful of restaurants had oysters on the menu, but now as more local, high-quality sources like Island Creek are available, more chefs are putting them on the menu. I’m often asked if oysters are an aphrodisiac. I think there are scientific reasons why they could be – it has to do with some of the minerals inside – and for the sake of sales as well, I’m going to say ‘yes.’