Wellfleet Puffer’s Petites
Waking up at 5 AM Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell and I completely disoriented by the time and lack of sunlight, walked in the completely opposite direction from the oyster farm we were visiting that morning. Noting the little arrow going in the wrong direction as we walked Google Maps in hand we turned around and jogged to Wellfleet Harbor to meet Irving and Jake Puffer, the incredible farmers of Wellfleet Oyster and Clam.
Having worked in the seafood industry in many capacities since he was seventeen-years-old, Irving Puffer has become an expert in his field. In 1970, it was time for him to set out on his own and start his own company, this company! Using all of his learnings, he has built this—now family run—farm with his namesake oysters, the sweet and briny “Puffer’s Petite”.
Each of the farms that Julie and I visited on our week long Cape Cod Oyster Tour, had a different process for how they grow their oysters—and each farmer glowed with pride when telling us about it. Maybe it was the orange haze from the morning’s sunrise but Irving appeared to be beaming when he told us how his farm catches their own seeds. And, from my understanding, he should be proud as most farms work with a hatchery to get their seeds to start that future season’s growth.
Standing by their oyster collecting “hats”, Irving and Jake explained this stage where their oysters begin their development. Each summer they make theses catcher hats that are coated in a cement and lime solution and then when dried are added to their farm. Once their larger oysters spawn, their larvae look for a suitable place to grow and find comfort in the lime nutrients in these hats. Yes, this all means that the majority of Puffer’s Petites are wild caught! Incredible.
As if on cue because I was looking down and noting how quickly the tide was coming in and just how deeply my rolled up jeans had submerged into the waters, Irving began telling us about their location and how it differed from other farms we had visited.
The Wellfleet Oysters and Clams farm is located on the tidal flats of Mayo Beach. What this means is that you literally walk directly from the sands of the beach into the watery farm. So, when I noted how high the waters were getting based on my now completely soaked jeans, Irving explained that their tides hit twelve feet. This means that the oysters find themselves completely exposed at times and buried under twelve feet of water at others. Fast forward through the necessary math, that means that the oysters are filtering about fifty gallons of water per day
This is a huge reason for the sweeter flavor notes found in these oysters. The fresh water that flushes into the salt water based Wellfleet Harbor balances out some of the initial briny flavors that Cape Cod is so well known for and replaces them with cleaner buttery notes.
Once selecting a bag from one of their beds, it was time to dive in and enjoy some of their delicious Puffer’s Petite oysters! Oysters all around!
It was so fun to meet the man who has to be Julie’s biggest fan. Irving reads every one of her articles, was able to note nearly all of her experiences and was visibly and notably honored to have her on his farm.
“You’re like the woman of every oyster man’s dreams.” — Irving Puffer
It was incredibly sweet to see. I was proud of my Julie for having such an esteemed number one fan and at the same time happy seeing the joy and honor it brought Irving to show her his farm.
And to think, it all—the mutually exciting introduction and the incredibly successful family business—happened because of those marvelous Puffer’s Petite Oysters and the wonderfully kind man behind them.