Shuck Your Own at This Damariscotta River Oyster Farm
Glidden Point lets you sample the wares once you’ve mastered the craft.
To say that oysters harvested in various locations contain their own unique qualities and flavor profiles—a “merroir” as the hip kids at the raw bar call it—is not just another marketing ploy. The particular mix of fresh water and salt water that flushes through the Crassostrea virginica (aka the American oyster) as it grows creates a myriad of nuances in taste.
Located on the banks of the Damariscotta River in Edgecomb, Glidden Point Oyster Farm is on prime oyster real estate. “The waters are so cold, and the tides are so dynamic,” says Allyson Blake, the farm’s store manager. “We can have a 10 to 12-foot difference in the tides.” This means that, twice a day, a fresh cycle of cold water rushes in from the ocean, providing the perfect balance of salt water, fresh water, and nutrients. The farm starts its seed, or babies, at the top of the river, where the richest nutrients flow, and this is key to their growth. This ecosystem, combined with the farm’s excellent lease locations and carefully executed growing practices, results in what owner Ryan McPherson claims are among the best oysters in the country. “In terms of our taste profile, I get worked up about it, because it changes with the season,” he says. “You can’t really nail it down.” But when asked, McPherson describes Glidden Point’s oysters as briny and sweet. “In the summer when they’re really growing, the muscle starts pumping and creates that sweetness.”
McPherson enjoys his oysters naked—without sauce or other additions— and suggests that, for at least the first few oysters they eat, customers should do the same. “Slow it down a little bit, enjoy the taste of them,” he says. At the same time, he admits that there are many interesting mignonettes available, such as the line from Waldo Stone Farm in nearby Bristol, and he likes to explore what happens when you add these other flavors to the oysters or even grill them.
Among the several oyster farms dotting the Damariscotta, Glidden Point is the only one where you can go hang out on the property, order a beer or a glass of wine, and enjoy a “samplah” right from the source. What began a few years ago as an honor box system, in which people could grab oysters out of the fridge and either take them home or shuck them themselves at the patio picnic tables, evolved last year into a window service operation to allow people to stay outside. McPherson acquired a beer and wine license, Blake sourced locally made snack items, and the farm set up some other food collaborations. Portland’s Highroller Lobster Company came through, as well as Jon Merry, the chef at the nearby River House Restaurant. “It was a huge hit, all the way through October,” Blake says.
A similar setup is expected this season, but with an enlarged patio to make room for more picnic tables with gorgeous river views, as well as farm tours, which are bookable through the website. Highroller’s food cart will be parked on the property every Friday through October, serving up fresh lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese, and lobster tacos (McPherson’s favorite). Reservations are available but limited: walk-ins remain the priority. The vibe of the place, as “shuck your own” suggests, is laidback and cool.
Don’t know how to shuck an oyster? No problem—the team will be happy to teach you. Food tastes better when you’ve had to work at it—and you’ll walk away with a new life skill.
McPherson finds that the farm store side of the business (which is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. for dine-in or takeout) is what helps him get his boots on in the morning—the freshness of oysters being pulled up from the dock and shucked by guests moments later. “Our farmers put in these long days, and they wouldn’t usually get to see the rewards—the smiles their work puts on people’s faces,” he says. “It makes life a little more fulfilling. It’s definitely a large element of why we do this.”
Be sure to “check in” at various locations along the Maine Oyster Trail, which the Maine Aquaculture Association launches this month. Each business along the trail will have a unique 4-digit code you can enter to track your visits and win free swag, including Glidden Point, as well as a number of businesses in the Damariscotta region, like the Shuck Station, Scully Sea Products, the HUB at Pemaquid Oyster Co., and Great Salt Bay Oyster Co. Find the trail at maineoystertrail.com.