4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Carlsbad Aquafarm is making locals shellfish

A self-shucked oyster, ready to eat in Carlsbad
A self-shucked oyster, ready to eat in Carlsbad

In the parking lot, it takes me a moment to realize what’s missing. I’m standing beside the old power plant in Carlsbad, only I don’t recognize it at first, because the stack is gone. The defunct plant is being dismantled, and though I can’t exactly be sentimental toward a smokestack, it is disorienting to be without a landmark associated with so many fun Tamarack surf sessions.

Today, I’m parking here to shuck oysters. Which may seem like a non sequitur but has everything to do with that plant being closed.

An aqua farm offers tours on the banks of Agua Hedionda Lagoon

See, roughly since the plant went up in 1954, Carlsbad Aquafarm has been raising shellfish in its shadow. However, due to security concerns, the public wasn’t allowed to visit, so the aquafarm quietly harvested bivalves destined for restaurant menus. Last spring, following the closure of the plant, the aquafarm began opening its lagoon property to tours, and now all of its shellfish are sold directly to consumers.

That includes online pick-up orders, but plenty of the oysters in question are eaten on site, by tour participants. The hour-long tours begin at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm daily, and weekends in particular must be reserved weeks ahead of time. For $30, guests get a tour of the operation, a quick shucking tutorial, and six, fresh-from-the-water oysters to eat.

A cluster of mussels in the Carlsbad Aquafarm touch pool

The tour itself includes a stop at a touching pool, where guest may lay hands on oysters of various life stages. These range from baby oysters in tiny shells the size of a nickel, to five-year-old breeders, often six- or seven-inches wide. The aquafarm also raises mussels, which grow in clusters on a length of rope, and the touch pool includes examples of a new cultivar in development: scallops.

Much of this will be surprising to those of us who associate West Coast oyster farming with the much cooler climes of Washington and British Columbia. However, Carlsbad Aquafarm has established such ideal conditions over the decades, that its oysters reach three-inch harvest size after only eleven months — many farms require two years and longer.

A scallop in its shell: likely a future product of the aqua farm

Oysters and other shellfish are filter feeders, and the original aquafarm was established by an SDSU project to clean up the Agua Hedionda Lagoon (a name meaning "fetid water"). These days, the farm has a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, across the now clean and biodiverse lagoon. Water pulled into the desal plant has been pre-filtered by the oysters and mussels, while the desal intake ensures greater flow of ocean water into the lagoon, which in turn keeps the bivalves well fed.

I admit to being dubious, both regarding the quality of shellfish and my own shucking ability. But once we got down to the business of separating the oysters from their shells, I found the meat to be smooth and impeccably ocean clean. Though not as briny as, say, Blue Point oysters from the east coast, these are fantastic at $20 per dozen. The $8 per pound mussels I took home yielded an excellent and budget-friendly seafood pasta.

A barrel turned shucking station, with freshly harvested oysters ready to open

Both oysters and mussels are currently available to those not taking the tour through online preorder. Orders will be ready for pick-up in two hours, at which point the shellfish will have been cleaned and out of the water for only ten minutes. You can’t beat that in Southern California.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Kensington pepper tree fight moves to Ocean Beach palms

City forester Brian Widener under attack
Next Article

Be habitual, baby!

Timing is the toughest surf skill to master
A self-shucked oyster, ready to eat in Carlsbad
A self-shucked oyster, ready to eat in Carlsbad

In the parking lot, it takes me a moment to realize what’s missing. I’m standing beside the old power plant in Carlsbad, only I don’t recognize it at first, because the stack is gone. The defunct plant is being dismantled, and though I can’t exactly be sentimental toward a smokestack, it is disorienting to be without a landmark associated with so many fun Tamarack surf sessions.

Today, I’m parking here to shuck oysters. Which may seem like a non sequitur but has everything to do with that plant being closed.

An aqua farm offers tours on the banks of Agua Hedionda Lagoon

See, roughly since the plant went up in 1954, Carlsbad Aquafarm has been raising shellfish in its shadow. However, due to security concerns, the public wasn’t allowed to visit, so the aquafarm quietly harvested bivalves destined for restaurant menus. Last spring, following the closure of the plant, the aquafarm began opening its lagoon property to tours, and now all of its shellfish are sold directly to consumers.

That includes online pick-up orders, but plenty of the oysters in question are eaten on site, by tour participants. The hour-long tours begin at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm daily, and weekends in particular must be reserved weeks ahead of time. For $30, guests get a tour of the operation, a quick shucking tutorial, and six, fresh-from-the-water oysters to eat.

A cluster of mussels in the Carlsbad Aquafarm touch pool

The tour itself includes a stop at a touching pool, where guest may lay hands on oysters of various life stages. These range from baby oysters in tiny shells the size of a nickel, to five-year-old breeders, often six- or seven-inches wide. The aquafarm also raises mussels, which grow in clusters on a length of rope, and the touch pool includes examples of a new cultivar in development: scallops.

Much of this will be surprising to those of us who associate West Coast oyster farming with the much cooler climes of Washington and British Columbia. However, Carlsbad Aquafarm has established such ideal conditions over the decades, that its oysters reach three-inch harvest size after only eleven months — many farms require two years and longer.

A scallop in its shell: likely a future product of the aqua farm

Oysters and other shellfish are filter feeders, and the original aquafarm was established by an SDSU project to clean up the Agua Hedionda Lagoon (a name meaning "fetid water"). These days, the farm has a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, across the now clean and biodiverse lagoon. Water pulled into the desal plant has been pre-filtered by the oysters and mussels, while the desal intake ensures greater flow of ocean water into the lagoon, which in turn keeps the bivalves well fed.

I admit to being dubious, both regarding the quality of shellfish and my own shucking ability. But once we got down to the business of separating the oysters from their shells, I found the meat to be smooth and impeccably ocean clean. Though not as briny as, say, Blue Point oysters from the east coast, these are fantastic at $20 per dozen. The $8 per pound mussels I took home yielded an excellent and budget-friendly seafood pasta.

A barrel turned shucking station, with freshly harvested oysters ready to open

Both oysters and mussels are currently available to those not taking the tour through online preorder. Orders will be ready for pick-up in two hours, at which point the shellfish will have been cleaned and out of the water for only ten minutes. You can’t beat that in Southern California.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Trump's Truth Social deal stalled by San Diego-tied investigation

Sorrento Valley merger partner subpoenaed by federal grand jury in New York
Next Article

Kensington pepper tree fight moves to Ocean Beach palms

City forester Brian Widener under attack
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close