Here are our definitions for terms we use and critters we regularly encounter on the farm. We're oyster farmers, lovers, and students, but not scientists... so take everything with some salt.
Algae: Small photosynthetic plants, the most well-known of a group of organisms called phytoplankton. Oysters consume microalgae, among other food sources. Macroaglae refers to plants such as seaweed and kelp
Banana: A term we use internally to mean a long and skinny oyster. Like trees after sunlight, crowded beach grown oysters will grow straight and narrow in an attempt to capture more of the current. Oftentimes, bananas are remnants of massive natural sets, where natural reproduction just loaded the beach with oysters. A long and skinny tumbled oyster is a sign that the oyster grew too fast and wasn't tumbled often enough.
Beach-Grown: A method of oyster cultivation involving growing oysters directly on the substrate. Pretty simple, really.
Belon or European Flat: Oyster species (Ostrea edulis) native to Europe and cultivated in small quantities on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. Metallic and full-flavored, Belons are susceptible to a parasite called bonamia and are hard to find in the marketplace.
Bivalve: Refers to a marine or freshwater mollusk with laterally compressed bodies enclosed by a shell in two hinged parts. Basically a fancy way of saying something with two shells: clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, etc.
Blue Pool: An incredibly delicious tumbled Pacific grown on the Hama Hama Farm.
Bottom Shell: The cupped side of an oyster, also known as the left valve.
The Brothers: The mountain just above our farm, which forms the headwaters of the Hamma Hamma River, and is one of the most prominent Olympic peaks visible from Seattle.
Bushel: A unit of volume measurement, referring to the bushel baskets sometimes used to harvest oysters.
Butter Clam: A big, beautiful clam native to the Northwest. Butters have a short shelf life and are tricky to sell and handle in restaurants, but they're tasty. Not the same thing as a steamer.
Chiton: A marine mollusc that looks like a tiny armadillo and eats algae. In some areas on our beach, we frequently find small chitons clinging to Hama Hamas. They're edible! In Alaska, there's a larger species of chiton called a gumboot, which is delicious (if a bit chewy) when pickled.
Cluster: Two or more oysters growing together in a mass of oyster love, or the building block of an oyster reef. We shuck clusters and pack the oysters into jars.
Cultch: Cleaned, semi-crushed shell used to attract and collect oyster larvae during a spawn, or from a hatchery.
Depuration: The act of holding oysters in purified, treated seawater so that they can purge toxins or bacteria.
Derby: Obviously a term with a lot going on, but on our farm it refers to Adam's dog.
Downweller: A primary shellfish nursery system capable of handling seed otherwise too small to be put in an upwelling system because it might float away. In a downweller, water flows down through the seed, pressing it against a screen.
FLUPSY: Short for Floating Upwelling System, which is a secondary nursery system that involves growing oysters in silos where water (and therefore food) continually flows upwards. The upward force of the water levitates the oysters slightly, allowing each oyster more access to food.
Fringe: The rounded part of an oyster shell opposite the hinge. The fringe is frequently fluted and covered in delicate new growth.
Geoduck: A giant clam, and the oldest joke on the tideflats. Confusingly pronounced gooeyduck, these clams are eaten as sashimi in Asia, and in chowders or fritters on Hood Canal.
H.A.B: Harmful Algal Bloom, a generic term referring to any algae that can cause illness in fish, humans, or other critters.
Hatchery: A facility that produces oyster larvae and/or seed, which typically involves growing lots of algae to feed the seed.
Kumamoto: Oyster species (Crassostrea sikamea) native to Japan and currently cultivated up and down the West Coast. Known for small size, deep cup, and a mild, buttery flavor, Kumos are very closely related to Pacific Oysters.
Long Lines: Method of growing oysters on ropes suspended 8 inches or so off the bottom. A great way to grow oyster clusters, especially in muddy areas.
Mantle: The edge of the oyster, frequently dark or black in color. Mantle plays a key role in shell formation, so when you shuck an oyster to eat, check the mantle for new growth before you slurp.
Merroir: A made-up but increasingly common term to describe how growing location (salinity, mineral content, algae, current, temperature, etc) influences an oyster's flavor. Coined from the French word for sea ("mer") and the viniculture term terroir.
Mollusk: An invertebrate of a large phylum that includes snails, slugs, mussels, and octopuses. Mollusks (or molluscs) have a soft, unsegmented body and live in aquatic or damp environments, and most have an external calcareous shell.
Moon Snail: Super strange giant drill snails and very efficient clam predators.
Nudibranch: Aka sea slugs, nudibranchs are carnivorous gastropod molluscs that cruise the flats, looking for tunicates, anemones, and sponges to eat.
Nursery: A facility that buys seed from a hatchery and feeds it for several months so that it grows quickly. Examples include FLUPSY's and downwellers.
Ocean Acidification: Changing ocean chemistry, caused by the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide, that makes it harder for calcifiers such as oysters to form their shells out of calcium carbonate.
Olympia Oysters: Oyster species (Ostrea lurida) native to the West Coast, from Baja to SE Alaska. Small in size but intense in flavor.
Openers: Oysters destined for the shucking table, aka clusters.
Oyster Herpes: A disgusting sounding disease (don't worry, it doesn't infect humans) capable of killing 90% of a crop just as it reaches market size. Currently a scourge in France.
Oyster Saloon: We couldn't call it a restaurant, so we called it an Oyster Saloon. Come up to the farm and we'll feast you with oysters, clams, and beer.
Pacific Oyster: Oyster species (Crassostrea gigas) native to Japan. Introduced in the early 1900s, Pacifics have since naturalized along much of the West Coast. The easiest species to cultivate, they're grown commercially around the world and offer a wide range of flavor profiles depending on growing location and technique.
Pea Crab: Small, harmless crab occasionally found inside shellfish. NBD unless you're allergic to crab.
Petite: A name we give to our smallest size of half shell oyster, not offered in all varieties, not available all the time.
Phytoplankton: Microscopic plant-like organisms that form the base of the marine food web. Aka microalgae. Diatoms and donflagellates are well-known types of phytoplankton.
Plankton: Any organisms that live int he water column, including zooplankton (animals) and phytoplankton (plants).
Predators: Anything other than a human that eats shellfish, such as sea stars and drill snails, carnivorous snails with corrosive saliva and sand paper-like tongues.
P.S.P.: Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning refers to a disease caused by consuming a biotoxin produced by various species of algae, most commonly the dinoflagellate Alexandrium. Cooking or freezing cannot prevent PSP, and as it causes the central nervous system to shut down, it's kind of a big deal. The WA Dept. of Health monitors for PSP and to date there have been no PSP illnesses associated with commercially grown shellfish in Washington State.
Rack-and-Bag: A culture method in which oysters are grown in bags that are elevated up off the bottom and can be rolled over from side to side manually, like dominoes. Also known as the French rack-and-bag system. This method is used by the Hog Island Company in California to grow their sweetwaters.
Red Tide: A layman's term meaning Harmful Algal Bloom or PSP outbreak. Not all red algae are harmful, and not all harmful algae are red.
Sand Fleas: Small, harmless creatures frequently found on the shells of beach grown oysters.
Savory Clam: Originally from Asia, these clams appeared on our beach in the late 2000s after being introduced to Puget Sound from ballast waters of trans-oceanic ships. They're bi-modal benthic feeders, and can out-compete most other species in certain substrates. They're really pretty, and fortunately they eat well.
Sea Cow: A tumbled Pacific oyster grown in South Puget Sound by and for the Hama Hama Company.
Sea Cucumber: Charismatic tideflat megafauna, sea cucumbers patrol the deeper intertidal zone looking for algae and detritis to eat.
Sea Star: The echinoderms formerly known as starfish.
Sea Star Wasting Disease: A very disturbing, mysterious, and widespread tendency for sea stars on the west coast to develop lesions and melt.
Seed: Baby oysters produced by a hatchery, typically refers to oysters younger than 6 months.
Seed Racks: Floating rafts we used to anchor offshore during the spawning season with bags of cultch suspended from them to collect oyster larvae. An old-school method of farming oyster clusters.
Shellstock: Refers to oysters and clams in the shell (as opposed to shucked product, which comes in jars).
Shellstock Tag: Shellstock tags are used by growers, shippers, distributors and restaurants to track oysters from harvest to consumption. End users (restaurants, retail stores) are required to keep tags on hand for 90 days.
Shore Crab: Tiny, angry crab that hide beneath oyster clusters at low tide.
Single: Something to be desired in an oyster (if you're a raw oyster lover) or the opposite of an oyster cluster.
Soft: An oyster that has begun to convert its glycogen stores to gamete, but isn't yet "spawny."
Spat: Can refer to either the gamete Pacific oyster release during the spawn, the resulting larvae, or the "set" oyster (i.e. after the oyster has metamorphosed out of larval stage, developed a shell, and attached itself to a substrate).
Spawny: Oysters that have converted their glycogen stores to gamete, also known as "milky" oysters.
Steamer Clams: Generally refers to our manila clams. Not at all the same thing as an East Coast steamer.
Subtidal Cultivation: A method of growing oysters below the tideline, either on the bottom or suspended from buoys or rafts. Subtidal oysters typically grow quickly because they're feeding constantly so they have to be rolled or tumbled frequently to maintain shell hardiness and shape.
Top Shell: Also known as the right valve, the top shell is flat.
Triploid: A sterile oyster that has three chromosomes instead of two. Triploid oysters grow more quickly than diploid (regular) oysters because they don't spend energy reproducing and they stay firm all summer.
Tumble Farm: Aka flip farm. An oyster cultivation technique where oysters are grown in bags that have buoys attached to them so that they move up and down with the tide. The resulting tumbling action prunes the oysters into a rounder, deeper-cupped shape. Examples include the Blue Pool, Chelsea Gem, and Shigoku.
Umbo: The pointy end of an oyster's shell, also known as the hinge, where the top and bottom shells come together.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus: Naturally-occurring salt water bacteria found worldwide that can cause gastrointestinal illness if consumed. Vp thrives in warm seawater and outbreaks are more common in the summertime. Cooking shellfish to 145 degrees kills the bacteria.
Vibrio vulnificus: Naturally-occurring salt water bacteria found worldwide that can cause severe illness or death if consumed. Vv outbreaks are normally associated with the Gulf of Mexico. The bacterium has been found in Washington waters, although there's never been a reported Vv illness from Washington oysters.
Virginica: Oyster species (Crassostrea virginica) native to the East Coast of North America from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. Typically stronger flavored than C. gigas (Pacifics), although virginica flavor varies quite a bit depending on growing location.
Wet Storage: Holding oysters in recirculating or flow-through salt water live tanks until they're ready to be consumed or shipped.
Yearling: Our name for our smallest size of shucked oyster. Other sizes (from smallest to largest) include extra small, small, and medium.
Zooplankton: Microscopic animals essential to the base of the marine food web.