Grow Local: Matunuck Oysters
Friday, June 25, 2010
Of all the people I meet, those in the farming profession always love what they do. This week’s farmer, Perry Raso of Matunuck Oyster Farm, is no exception. Raso has been farming seafood for almost 20 years and clearly still loves it. He was out on his boat at his farm in Potter Pond in East Matunuck when I went to see him, “forcing” me to take a seat at his restaurant for some local oysters, stuffies and fried clams.
Shellfishing All His Life
Raso started shellfish farming as summer work when he was in school. Back then he farmed littlenecks and steamers for local restaurants, as well as eels - the small ones were sold as bait, the bigger ones were shipped to China. He studied aquaculture at URI and in 2002 started farming oysters, leasing from the state seven acres of waist-deep water in Potter Pond. To get started, Raso took advantage of a Rhode Island Sea Grant and funding from the Rhode Island Aquaculture Initiative.
Stockholder of the Water
It took a couple of years to build up the oyster farm to be fully producing. Raso looks at what he does as an environmental stewardship, calling himself a stockholder in the body of water. Oysters and
How Much Seafood Can We Take from the Sea?
Unlike agriculture which has had hundreds of years to develop, Raso says, aquaculture is only a couple of decades old; the best methods for business and sustainability are still evolving. The ongoing debate between how fishermen can maintain their livelihood and how much seafood should be caught to maintain their own population - the now of making a living versus a future with less seafood - seems to be unwinnable for either side. But Raso believes science will find a solution as aquaculture develops.
In the meantime, you can do your part in helping both sides by eating sustainably raised seafood like farmed oysters. You can find Matunuck oysters at some local farmers markets and several local restaurants, including the Matunuck Oyster Bar that Raso opened last July. Raso expected to close for the winter but the restaurant has been open non-stop, serving not only Matunuck oysters but several other types of locally farmed shellfish from the southern coast, helping to keep aquaculture growing strong in RI. And delicious on any summer night. And speaking of which...
Recipe: Fresh Caught Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
This week’s recipe is kind of a no-brainer; eat some raw oysters! I like them as is, no need for a sauce, but if you’d like a splash of something with your oysters here’s a basic mignonette sauce. â�¨Pick them up at your local spot, pry them open (for a how-to video, go here) and get down to business.
2 T shallots, finely chopped
½ cup white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar is great to use
1 T freshly ground black pepper, crack the peppercorns coarsely if you can
Combine all the ingredients and chill. Spoon a little on your oysters and slurp them up (no utensils required!).
Matunuck Oyster Farm and Oyster Bar, 629 Succotash Rd, East Matunuck, 783-4202, www.rhodyoysters.com, find them on Facebook here. Want to know more about sustainably raised seafood? A great resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
Photos David Dadekian
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