Recently while in a fish market in North Hampton, New Hampshire I asked where they got their oysters.
The young lady behind the counter couldn’t pronounce it, but having lived in Boothbay for 12 years I knew exactly where she meant, the Damariscotta River. Many consider Damariscotta, Maine to be the ultimate destination for oyster lovers.
Crassostrea virginica, the American or Eastern oyster, is native to the great state of Maine. Native Wabanaki people are believed to have harvested oysters from the river long ago, as documented by several historic oyster middens in Maine. What remains of Whaleback Shell Midden, Glidden Midden and other shell heaps on the Damariscotta River were created over 1,000 years ago. You can see the middens in Damariscotta and Newcastle while kayaking in the river or you can take a short hike behind Roundtop Ice Cream in Damariscotta to the Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site. Take a Damariscotta River Cruises aquaculture tour aboard the 50′ River Tripper, including live music cruises and oyster tastings or for the more adventurous, a self-propelled tours of the farms with Midcoast Kayak.
Since 2001, on the last Sunday in September, the Pemaquid Oyster Company and Schooner Landing Restaurant in Damariscotta host the annual Pemaquid Oyster Festival, a fundraiser with all profits going to the Edward A. Myers Marine Conservation Fund. Myers, from Walpole, Maine, was a pioneer in the aquaculture business. If you missed the festival or just want to enjoy them in Boothbay Harbor – try them baked, fried or on the half-shell at Mine Oyster or The Boathouse Bistro.
The Oysterater website lists 11 varieties of oysters from the Damariscotta River region alone: Wawenauk, Pemaquid Point, Whaleback Cocktails, Glidden Point, European Flat, Wiley Point, Norumbega, Pemaquid, Dodge Cove, Ebenecook, and Damariscotta.
Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb sells their oysters nationwide, including Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Glidden Points are grown forty feet deep in the frigid Damariscotta River, making them possibly the deepest and coldest grown oysters along the East Coast. They are also the only oysters in the world that are hand-harvested by divers. Oysters in the tidal river are slow grown taking four years to mature. Barbara Scully started Glidden Oyster Farm 31 years ago while working full time at DMR. After 12 years, when she turned a profit, she quit her full-time job to become a full time oyster farmer. Read her story here. About a year and a half ago Glidden Oysters was purchased by Ryan McPherson. Oysters are still in Scully’s blood though and she now operates Barbara Scully’s Oyster and Lobster Market, officially know as The Lobster Store where you can find freshly harvested Damariscotta River oysters, raft purged Maine littlenecks and steamer clams, and hand selected hard bottom lobsters from the islands of the Boothbay region, as well as gift items and shucking tools. You’ll see her quaint, little shop on the River Road in Edgecomb, Maine just down the road a piece from Glidden’s Oyster Farm.
For more information on oysters in Maine, check out the links below.
The Oysterater website has a wealth of information with 300+ oysters and 125+ oyster bars!
Maine Sea Grant Oyster Trail
Guide to Maine Oysters
The Oyster Guide
Oyster Farming Booms Along the Coast