Wednesday, March 3, 2010


We have a painting of New Haven harbor made in the 1850's. The painting shows at least twenty boats and ships, and most of the boats are tonging oysters, as in this detail. New Haven and surrounding waters produced vast quantities of oysters until poor water quality either killed the oysters or made them essentially poisonous from coliform, vibrio (aka cholera) and other bacteria associated with sewage. The entire fishery was pretty much written off by the 1960's when something wonderful happened: the 1972 passage of  Senator Ed Muskie's Clean Water Act. Now the fishery produces 450,000 bushels of oysters annually, with 70,000 acres under aquacuture, affording 300 jobs. Thanks, Ed!

Oysters are cultivated on the Martha's Vineyard ponds where I like to spend time, and a consequence is a proliferation of tasty wild oysters exactly like those costing a dollar a piece in the market, and far more in a restaurant. They are so briny and good, fresh from an icy salt pond.

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