Cape May Salts – or Where do your Oysters Come from?

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CAPE MAY, NJ – It’s a sunny afternoon on a shallow stretch of tidal mud flats along the Delaware Bayshore at low tide.

Workers have only four hours before the tide comes rushing back in to do their job – tending to the rows and rows of Cape May Salts oysters growing slowly in metal racks along the edge of the bay.

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Oysters have been harvested along this stretch of Cape May County bayshore for over a hundred years.

In the last 18 years, this new breed of oyster has taken up residence. Brian Harman, the oyster farming manager for Atlantic Cape Fisheries, says the company worked with Rutgers to test the rack and bag method of growing oysters.  Seed oysters are placed in metal racks and carefully tended until they grow to market size.

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It’s slow going – workers have to sort the oysters by hand, separating the small and large ones. The racks have to be turned.  The large oysters harvested.  All in just four hours a day, before the tide reclaims the flats.

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The project’s been a winner – more than a million Cape May Salts now are harvested each year. They’re one of Cape May County’s most popular exports, known up and down the coast as some of the best oysters around.

Cape May Salts will share center stage at this week’s special event sponsored by the Cape May Forum about local products.

If you want to learn more about local oysters, (and sample some Cape May Salts) in addition to tasting local wines, click here for info on Saturday’s event.

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One interesting fact: it takes about two years for an oyster to grow to full size. Remember that the next time you slurp a Cape May Salt down in three seconds!

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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak is a journalist, a gardener and a Cape Island resident. She's also Cape May Times' photographer. She founded Cape May Times after a long and lively career in TV news.