We’ve been enjoying fresh Gulf oysters in Alabama for centuries, of course. But the last decade or so, we’ve been enjoying them in a slightly different way.
Nowadays, in an effort to meet demand for fresh Gulf oysters while meeting sustainability quotas, Alabamians have started farming oysters on their own.
The most popular farming technique is one that we borrowed from Australia: the off-bottom method. Essentially, juvenile oysters are loaded into baskets that hang suspended above the water bottom and remain underwater, except for when the system raises the baskets above the water about once a week to remove barnacles, seaweed, and other organisms that can affect the oysters’ growth.
Thanks in large part to Dr. Bill Walton, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist at Auburn University, these boutique oyster farms have been popping up all along Alabama’s Gulf Coast over the past ten years. Nowadays, you’ll find Alabama Gulf oysters on restaurant menus all over the Southeast.
Here are some of Alabama’s oyster farms to look for next time you’re at your favorite oyster bar.
Bama Bay Oyster Farm (Coden)
The nutrient-rich waters of Mobile Bay, just south of Fowl River, provide an ideal environment for oysters with a clean shell and an amazing taste.
Double D Oyster Farm (Theodore)
This Mobile Bay farm harvests two delicious (and beautiful) oysters: Grande Batture Selects and Sandy Bay Selects. They supply premium oyster seed, too.
Massacre Island Oyster Ranch (Dauphin Island)
Growing in the briny waters of the Mississippi Sound, these oysters feature a sturdy shell with plump, pearly meat and a sweet finish (much like shrimp).
Mobile Oyster Company (Dauphin Island)
The salty, rich waters of Dauphin Island’s west end produce the popular Isle Dauphine Oysters. In fact, these oysters are only harvested to order.
Murder Point Oyster Company (Bayou La Batre)
Perhaps the most popular boutique oyster farmed in Alabama, these “oysters worth killing for” feature a uniquely creamy, even buttery taste.
Navy Cove Oyster Company (Fort Morgan)
With a plump profile, a sweet flavor, and moderate saltiness, you’re in for a treat with these oysters. They even feature a signature “racing stripe” across the shell.
New Reef Oyster Company (Mobile)
This “truly organic oyster farm” started with just half a dozen cages. Almost eight years later, they’re still serving up high-quality Gulf oysters.
Point aux Pins Oyster (Grand Bay)
The first Alabama oyster farm to employ the off-bottom method has been harvesting premium Gulf oysters for a decade now. (We profiled them back in 2012.)
Portersville Bay Oyster Company (Coden)
This company harvests wild Alabama reef oysters as well, but their farm-raised “Turtleback” oysters are a real treat. And they’re available by the sackful.
Want to learn more about how Alabama’s boutique oyster farms are producing the finest farm-raised oysters on the Gulf Coast? The Bitter Southerner’s “Oysters, Alabama Style” is a fine place to continue your education.
Photo courtesy of Mobile Oyster Company.