Carlsbad Aquafarm is “Southern California’s only shellfish aquafarm growing eco-friendly mussel, oyster, clam, abalone, scallop and culinary seaweed since 1990 in Carlsbad, California,” and the provider of our delicious Luna Oysters!
In January of 2014, on a business focused trip to Carlsbad, the Aquafarm welcomed Community Seafood visionaries Sarah and Magna with open arms. Not only did they establish a working relationship with the Carlsbad Aquafarm to include their seafood in our repertoire, but they were also given a complete (2 hour!) tour of the farm and gained amazing knowledge about farm grown oysters, mussels, scallops, and manila clams.
There is an important distinction to be made between the bad press on fish farming and the work being done down in Carlsbad. Aquafarms are very different when it comes to shellfish, and it’s important to make those distinctions when choosing the origin of your food. We are delighted that Carlsbad Aquafarm shares our “no waste” principle, and excited to have them as one of our suppliers.
Read on to learn more about Carlsbad Aquafarm and the incredible variability of their oysters. While luna oysters should be eaten raw, we realize that method isn’t for everyone. Check our recipes page for a killer way to prepare your oysters!
The Life Story of the Shellfish
Getting Started (i.e. babyhood):Life as a baby oyster at Carlsbad Aquafarm begins in the
“nursery” — a net lined box that is submerged in the surface water and easily accessible by the farmers who check on them every other day to assess growth and health.
They just grow up so fast! (i.e. the pre-teen years): Once they reach a certain size, the oysters are moved out of the nursery and put into groups in stacked netted condos. This sounds very strange, but it really is the best way to describe it! The “condos” are long square nets that are segmented into floors. The floors gives the oysters a lot of room to increase oxygen and nutrient availability. Oysters (and other filter feeders) are great indicators of ocean health. Happy oysters means a healthy ocean climate!
Obviously, normal oysters growing conditions are very different from these cushy condos! In normal oyster reefs, the oysters’ shells get roughed up a bit during storms and chip. While this seems like a minor detail, the stress associated with this shell chipping causes the oyster to grow deeper, thereby increasing the amount of edible meat. Just think of this as the same concept behind trimming a tree or cutting plant buds to improve health of cause the tree to focus its energy on growth! In order to simulate this shell chipping on the farm, the oysters are periodically taken out of their condos and go on a ride through a tumbling “chipper”! The chipper sorts them by size and chips their shell just enough to cause the desired direction of growth! (pictured below)
Cleaning up their act (i.e. adolescence): Finally, the oysters reach harvestable size! They are moved out of their condos and transferred to large holding tanks. These holding tanks have a constant flow of clean water flowing through them. This water is cleaned through a series of filters that take out all bacteria, phytoplankton, and viruses. Because oysters are filter feeders, they drink in this clean water, and clean themselves out of any impurities. This produces a most amazing and pure flavor! After hanging out in the holding tanks for 48 hours, the oysters are bagged and sent up to us for your weekly shares!
Fun Fact:Ever wonder where oysters get their names or why they can taste so different from one area to another? More often than not, oysters are named for the location that they are grown in (i.e. grassy bars, blue points, etc). This has everything to do with their variable flavor! All oysters in the pacific are actually the same species, Crassostrea gigas. While this would normally mean that they were indistinguishable from one another, in the case of
oysters, the water that they are grown in has a strong effect on their flavor, size, and appearance! This has been jokingly referred to as “terr-mar,” referring to the more common “terroir” (a concept that the taste of wine is defined by the soil and location of the vines!).
No Waste: Not only do they produce incredible shellfish, but they also strive to maintain a “no-waste” business model. Any mussels or oysters that die or are damaged get relegated to drying crates on the property. Here the seagulls feast and pick them clean. After they’ve been cleaned and the shells dry out for a few weeks, the navy buys them from the farm and grinds them up to seed certain beaches to help support a struggling bird population that builds it’s ground nests entirely out of broken seashells!