November 16, 2011

Beach Point Oysters

A typical Beach Point. Delicious

Barnstable Harbor (or Barnstable Bay, there is some disagreement as to the proper name) has begun to prove itself as a contender for some of the best oysters on Cape Cod, one to rival the eminent Wellfleet Harbor. This area has pristine waters, thanks to protected lands on all sides and an utter lack of major industry; the salinity is high, the predators are few, and the water is cold. The large barrier beach of Sandy Neck wraps around the harbor on the north side, protecting it from the harsh winds and waves of the open Cape (the tip of Sandy Neck is called Beach Point, hence the name).

Barnstable Harbor the first day I visited

Mark Begley has been growing his Beach Points on 2 acres of the sea floor since 1999, with occasional help from his sons and daughter, and the support of his wife. Considered a "boutique seafarm," his operation is very small by any standards, both because of the local leasing regulations and because this is a part-time venture -- though, there really is no such thing as "part-time farming" as any farmer can attest -- but this seems to be working out very well for Mr. Begley (who is officially employed full-time as an Environmental Engineer). He raises his oysters from purchased seed in an imported long-line-and-cage system from Australia (check out the photos on the website here), which is very unusual here on the East Coast. There are several advantages to this system: first, the cages are easy to handle, even when full of adult oysters; second, they are free to move around with the waves and tides, keeping the oysters nicely tumbled; and last, the cages are designed in a way that facilitates the grow process by allowing the use of mesh bags placed inside to grow oysters from seed to adult. With help from his son, Mark Begley also just built a mechanized tumbler to help sort the oysters and make his life easier. This might also make the oysters more robust and deeply cupped than before, so keep your eyes out in about a year or so for this product.

These oysters are definitely in my Top 10, and, having been there and conversed with Mr. Begley himself, I know they will continue to be exceptional. Enjoy!

The same location, 24 hours later at wicked high tide. 

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