What characteristics do you think about when it comes to the best oysters in the world? Plump and full of meat? Salty? Maybe even a little sweet? These adjectives precisely describe a Carolina Gold Oyster. Each shell is beautifully cupped to hold what we consider the best oyster in the world, better yet-the Gold of Eastern North Carolina. So what does it take to grow the best oysters in the world? Let’s talk about what it takes to grow an oyster from start to finish!
Our oyster “seed” start off their tiny lives in a hatchery or nursery. We purchase oyster seed from 4 different hatcheries /nurseries. Why purchase from 4 different locations? Each location has seed available at different times of the year. With 4 different nurseries, we can plant oyster seed throughout the year, starting as early as April. When the oyster seed reaches 6mm in size, it is time for them to head out to the farm!
Once the seed is received, we place them in 4mm oyster bags. We place roughly 3500-6500 oyster seed in each bag. Every week that the seed is in the bag, we must pressure wash the bags to keep them clean. It is very important to keep the bags clean so the oysters get lots of food to grow big and strong! When the seed have been in the bags for 1 month, we take them out to tumble them. This process is done by tumbling the oysters in a large tube with lots of holes, and by turning the tube, the oysters separate by size.
After the tumbling process, we place them in a 9mm bag! The oysters now have grown to 12-18mm in size. We place 500 12-18mm oysters in a 9mm bag. Remember we started off with 3500-6500 6mm oysters in each bag and that decreases down to 500! The oysters that are too small will be placed back into a 4mm for further growth. We repeat this process once a month until all the oyster seed is large enough to go into a 9mm bag.
When all of the oysters make it into a 9mm bag, they stay in these bags for about 2 months before we tumble them again. During the two months, we have to keep the 9mm bags clean from fouling (growth of unwanted organic material, like barnacles on each oyster bag). To do that we flip each bag by hand once a week! It may not sound like a lot but, we flip around 1600 bags by hand.
When the oysters have been growing in a 9mm bag for 2 months, we tumble again. After we tumble, this time the oysters will be placed into a 14mm bag/cage. Again the oysters that are to small to go into a 14mm bag will be placed into a 9mm bag for further growth. We place 150-300 oysters in a 14mm bag/cage. At this point, the oysters are around 1.5 inches. Once the oysters are in the 14mm bag/cage, we will not tumble them again for another 4-6 months. During that time, we continue to keep the bags clean by flipping each one by hand every week.
Now that our oysters have been in the 14mm bag/cages, the next step is to harvest the oysters. The oysters will be approximately 2.5 to 3 inches in size. We must tumble them one more time before harvesting. The oysters that are 2.5 to 3 inches will be harvested and taken to market. The oysters that are smaller will be placed back into the 14mm bag/cages for a few more months to finish growing. After the oysters are harvested, we pressure wash each one and bag them into bags of 100!
The last step is packing your order and shipping it with FedEx right to your door. Now it is time to enjoy the best oysters in the world!