Making a Habit of Oysters & Invasives for a Fertile Earth

Aw shucks.

“Salted ham.”

MGFD Miami’s chef de cuisine Bradley Herron and I were at the salad station last night, breaking into something a little more delicate than cured Palmetto Creek Hereford hindquarter. The kind folks at Island Creek Oyster sent Wellfleet samples for us to try, after I had met the owner of ICOB, the eponymous Boston restaurant and bar, on a visit last month for my brother’s college graduation.

Ok Brad was doing the shucking, but as I slurped one down, quickly nodded in agreement.  Salted ham it was!  That and butter.  “On the finish,” he added.  An oyster after our own pork-loving hearts, unlike the sweet and creamy Kumos, big bellied Kusshis, or clean, crisp Beau Soleils usually on the menu.

Wellfleet Harbor has been considered the home of one of the world’s great oyster beds for generations, dating back to when Samuel Champlain explored Cape Cod’s waters in 1605.  By the beginning of the 1800s, the native oyster population was nearly depleted from overfishing for eating and construction, disease and environmental factors.  What happened next is something we would be wise to learn from, closer to home.  Its tradition of acquaculture began when young oysters were shipped in from Chesapeake Bay because the same species of eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, native to both places. The oysters were fattened and flavored in Wellfleet Harbor and then sold to the lucrative Boston market. Cultivating oysters has been an evolving and enduring part of Wellfleet’s economic life ever since.  Look for these Wellfleets to hit this Sunday’s Brunch menu and try the cured meat of the oyster world.  You’ll get a dose of history and a lesson in habitat management, too.

On Saturday, Brad is taking matters in his own hands down south and helping to raise awareness for Florida’s own habitat management issues, with meat notes of a more wild kind.

Invasive species are one of many factors putting our local environment at risk and the great news is that some are edible and delicious, in the right hands of course!  Brad’s joining chefs Timon Baloo of Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill in Midtown and Todd Erickson of Haven on South Beach to cook at Fertile Earth Foundation’s UnderGROUND Miami event at Villa 221 in Wynwood on Saturday.  Yesterday I caught him filling wild boar sausages and pickling cherries, and can’t wait to try them along with the other chefs’ creations.   Each must prepare three dishes using snakehead and lionfish, Burmese python, and wild boar.

VIP tickets to the event get access to the three chefs’ delicacies, so if you don’t want to fork out the $150 per person to attend, the organizers are giving away a pair of tickets to one of its e-newsletter subscribers!  You have until 12:00 noon tomorrow Friday to email and request to be on the email list if you aren’t already on it.   A winner will be randomly selected from those signed-up, and notified by 5:00 p.m.  A pair of General Admission tickets  ($20 each) will also be given away to 5 lucky winners who LIKE the foundation on Facebook (you also have until 12:00 noon tomorrow to do that.)  There is no limit to the number of likes and those who have liked them in the past are in the running.  Phew! Let’s eat already!

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