As part of the PEI Flavours Culinary Trail, a well marked map outlining the best places to eat across the Island, there are a range of authentic foodie experiences that you can partake in. At the Tong and Shuck, based out of Future Seafoods in Fernwood (a short drive from the Confederation Bridge), you get to go out on the water with an oyster fisherman, harvest oysters and then try them as fresh as they come right there on the boat, and as part of a tasting experience with wine once you’re back on dry land.

The Tong and Shuck experiences are pretty popular. “Some weeks we’ll get so busy I can hardly keep up with the number of people, but the weather has been poor so far this year so it has been slower so far this season,” says Erskine Lewis, one of the owners of Future Seafoods, who. It was a grey and drizzly day when we went out on the oyster dory (small motor boat) with Lewis, and although I can imagine the experience is a lot more pleasant when the sun is shining, it was still a fun time where we learned an awful lot about oysters.

(Besides, Lewis’s fishermen gather oysters all year round, they just saw a big hole in the ice to get them when the bay is frozen, because there’s a steady demand for his product all winter through in the US, so I couldn’t let a little rain put us off.)
The oysters are gathered from the ocean floor with an apparatus that looks like two giant rakes scissored together that comb the oysters up – this is the tonging part of the experience. Once up, Lewis explains a little about the fishing process before shucking the oysters right there on the boat so that you can try them as fresh as they come, and if you are a fan this is an absolutely delicious treat.

I had no idea until Lewis told me that oysters are graded solely on the shape of their shell, because the meat is the same regardless, and oysters from some areas are regards as being better quality because of the environment they grow in. Rounder shelled oysters are considered choice, the ones with less regular shells are called standard, and the poorer shaped shells are considered commercial grade (used in cooking). “The real fancy oysters are perfectly shaped, and command a higher price,” says Lewis.

Once back at Future Seafoods plant, you get a lesson in shucking, and enjoy a glass of wine and get to try even more oysters. Unfortunately, because we got lost on the way there and arrived late, we had to skip most of the land based part of the tour, but even doing just half of it (which was probably the best bit, actually getting out there on the boat and harvesting the oysters) was worth the drive out there. Make sure to take a map when you go and don’t rely on GPS like I did as there are reception blackout areas en route (which is why I got so lost). This is a great experience that puts you in touch with the locals and gives you a real taste of Island life.

The Tong and Shuck experience costs $85 per person, with a minimum of two participants. Call 1-866-887-3238 for more information and to book.