The Juicy History of the Wellfleet Oyster

There’s plenty of history to explore on Cape Cod, but the juicy history behind the Wellfleet oyster is one you can really sink your teeth into. Oyster aficionados know the Wellfleet oyster isn’t your typical variety.

These flavorful oysters are oftentimes described as having a briny sweetness, plumped up by the plankton-rich, salty seawater in which they thrive. It’s been a savory treat for generations, as oyster beds in Wellfleet were so lucrative in the early years, they grew into commercial networks.

It wasn’t something that came about just with the settlers. Native Americans considered the local oysters a delicacy long before Europeans arrived. In early 1600s, a French explorer discovered the area himself and named it “Oyster Port”.

Sailors and oystermen quickly discovered that unlike some other things, oysters could travel well. Colonists were even sending the oysters back to Europe.

Meanwhile, in the new colonies, they were thought of as both a delicacy, and used as currency. The oyster industry rapidly grew in the 18th century, and new farming techniques were developed.

A special rake, for instance, was developed and used for better harvesting. Eventually workers moved from harvesting wild oysters to farming. In recent years, the oyster industry in Wellfleet was deemed to be worth nearly $3 million.

While disease, pollution, and overfishing have all presented challenges, better conservation efforts and more sustainable practices have also been developed over the years. Today, the distinctive oysters are highly sought after worldwide.

Pearl on Wellfleet Harbor is just one of the local, waterfront restaurants that serves Wellfleet oysters. Its primary supplier is Billingsgate Shellfish in Wellfleet. This family-owned and operated farm has been in business for decades. 

It grows natural, free-range oysters. The restaurant then partners with a shell recycling program to return oyster shells back to local waters, which is said to eventually help produce new oysters.

Post a Comment