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Farmer: Sixto Portilla
Location: Great South Bay, Long Island, NY
How They’re Grown: These are grown in floating cages most of the year and flipped constantly to encourage deep cups and firm shell growth. During the winter when ice arrives at their bay, they drop the cages to the ocean floor.
How They Taste: A blast of salt upfront followed by a creamy, firm chew.
Why They’re Unique: These oysters are being grown in the same bay as the OG Blue Point oyster of the 19th century, near the town of Blue Point on Long Island. Oysters from this area were considered to be the favorite of Queen Victoria. The name was so popular that it was used to describe all Long Island oysters. Finally, a 1908 New York state law stated that the ‘Blue Point’ name can only be used when oysters come from the Great South Bay, but it wasn’t well enforced. The name has been diluted for over a century due to other farmers using it without permission. Maris Stella means ‘Star of the Ocean,’ and comes from the 9 th century hymn “Ave Maris Stella.” It has often been invoked by seafarers who make their livelihoods on the sea.
Story: Sixto started the farm in May 2014 and has been harvesting since 2015. He gained knowledge of the Great South Bay grant program because he worked as a local College scientist at a near-by hatchery. This was sheer luck as he won the lease lottery and gained access to a one-acre plot where he has helped reinvigorate the shellfish history of the Great South Bay. When he isn’t working on the water, he loves hanging out with his five children!