Tide to Table Profiles: Pelican Oyster Co.
The Pelican Oyster Co. is a shellfish farm based in Tallahassee, Florida.
In a spring-fed estuary within the Gulf of Mexico, the Pelican Oyster Company is raising shellfish near Florida’s Big Bend. In the favorable gulf climate, the company raises thousands of their “Salty Bird” oysters each year.
From Spat to Salty Bird
The Pelican Oyster Company grows juvenile oysters (spat) at a nursery before they are brought to the farm. On the farm, the spats filter feed and grow while floating in bags atop the waves. Before heading to market, the oysters are tumbled to remove any sharp edges on the shell and sorted by size. Once a shell reaches 3” it is considered a finished Salty Bird. In the temperate waters of Florida it takes six to eighteen months for an oyster to reach maturity.
Keeping the Gulf Clean
Sustainable growers like the Pelican Oyster Company regularly spread new oyster seeds in their growing areas, making the business net-positive for the environment. In areas that have been historically overharvested, farmed oysters are a keystone species that can rejuvenate the ecosystem. They filter the water and allow other species, such as finfish, to flourish. Each adult oyster on the farm can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.
Farm owner Cainnon Gregg states that in the years that he has been farming oysters on the gulf, there has been a substantial return of the fish population as fish use the structures provided by the farm for shelter and foraging habitat for food.
There are of course different species of oyster, but the shellfish’s unique flavor (or ‘meroir’) comes primarily from the region where it grows. Words like buttery, savory, and even crisp are used to describe different oyster tastes. The two most common terms used are briny and sweet. The briny oysters are a product of filtering salty water and these oysters usually come from the ocean or areas with high salinity. The sweeter-flavored oysters are usually produced in bays and creeks. The mix of salt and fresh water in these areas gives these oysters a sweet finish when consumed.
Recipe: Easy Baked Oysters
Never shucked an oyster before? No problem, you can learn here.
- 12 whole oysters in the shell
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened and divided
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
- Lemon wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with rock salt or uncooked dry rice to prevent oysters from wobbling.
- Scrub the oysters and carefully shuck them over a bowl. If some of the oyster liquor spills into the bowl, return it to the bottom “cup” shell. Throw away the top shells and add the oysters (with liquid) to the baking sheet.
- In a pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the panko crumbs and cook, stirring, until the crumbs are lightly browned.
- In a bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of softened butter with the chives, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Top each oyster with a teaspoon of the butter mixture. Sprinkle each with buttered panko crumbs.
- Bake the oysters for 8-10 minutes. The panko topping will turn golden brown.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
To learn more about the Pelican Oyster Company, visit their website.
Sustainable Seafood from Tide to Table
The Tide to Table series profiles members of the aquaculture community, who provide valuable jobs and increase access to fresh, sustainably sourced American seafood. Aquaculture is about more than seafood production. It is about ecosystem stewardship, coastal communities, and economic opportunities.