Reprinted from WRAL.com
DURHAM — For years, the most critically acclaimed oysters on the East Coast were not wanted. The green gill oyster, native to eastern North Carolina, could not be found at a single restaurant in the state, but after years of struggle, a Durham restaurant is now offering them on the menu.
“Born in the Newport River, moved into the North River. It’s a very salty oyster,” said Tres Hundertmark, an oyster promoter.
The green gill grows naturally in the rivers of North Carolina and get its color and taste from the algae in the water.
“When the oysters feed on that, the pigment from the plant gets taken up by the gills, and gives it that emerald green color,” Hundertmark said.
Traditionally, they were unsaleable.
“I had to throw them away. People like green vegetables, they don’t like green meat,” Hundertmark said.
Now, the oysters are one of the most expensive oysters on Shuckin’ Shack’s menu.
Oysterman David Cessna of Carteret County has patented a way to grow the oysters faster and more efficiently, but still naturally.
“We have figured out how to grow a lot of oysters, so a green gill market is steady and available,” Cessna said.
The offering is marketed as the “Atlantic Emerald Oyster,” and upscale restaurants from New York to Miami are eager to put them on the menu. Currently, the Shuckin’ Shack in Durham is the only local place selling them.
Coastal Review Online is partnering with WRAL.com to provide readers with more news from the state capitol that is relevant to the coast.
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