Oysters, Tides, and Boots (Knee High) – That’s What Shellfish Club Is Made Of
The beach was filled with the squish of boots wading through low-tide mud as the Shellfish Club hosted its first work party on the beach. On October 6, at midnight, the club took about twenty-five students to learn about how clams and oysters are farmed at the Evergreen State College, and at the end, to shuck and eat their own pacific oysters.
“This is the first work party where we will eat oysters,” said Nate Bernitz, one of the coordinators of the Shellfish Club. “All summer, we’ve been waiting for this day.” In anticipation of this event, Bernitz brought several bottles of Tabasco to put on the oysters.
During the summer, said Bernitz, there’s too much algae and bacteria in the water to eat oysters raw. Instead, the club comes down and holds clambakes. “This time of year, we can eat oysters just by opening them up and slurping them. Why would we do anything but eat raw oysters?”
The Shellfish club was founded in January of 2012, and started the clam and oyster farm July of the same year. We are a non-commercial farm,” said Derek King, the other coordinator of the club. “We are here to show people what the industry is and to get people to try new things.”
While some students stuck to the clam section of the farm, digging up dead clams and using a special clam rake to “sweeten”, or oxygenize, the soil, other students went to shake oyster bags, to prune the oysters.
The bags, made out of an ultraviolet-treated plastic, are durable enough to withstand several seasons of growing oysters without tearing or becoming debris in the water. Even so, the club is looking for ways to discontinue using plastics. Bernitz explained to the group that they couldn’t use metal bags, because the oysters would crack when they shook the bags, which would kill them.
Virginia Green, a freshmen at Evergreen and new to the shellfish club, never had a raw oyster until that night. After struggling with the oyster shell, trying to get the shucking knife under its hinge, Green finally pried it loose, cut away the muscle attaching the oyster meat to the shell, lifted it up, and slurped it down. “It tastes like the ocean,” she laughed, reaching for another. “It could use come crackers.”
By Ray Still