Oyster Middens, or piles of discarded shells, once littered the landscape of Manhattan and its neighboring shores, a testament to the astonishing abundance of the indigenous European Oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Archaeologists have discovered many middens around the world, left behind by native peoples for whom oysters and other shellfish were a food staple, sometimes providing the only evidence of diet for nomadic, hunter-gatherer tribes.
Middens, however, are not just about history. As part of the Oyster Restoration Research Project, large piles of oyster shells that have dried out in the sun are used in spat-on-shell aquaculture, where floating larvae attach themselves to the shells' substrate. Crushed shell is also used to build restoration reef sites. The shells are provided by Oceania Restaurant in midtown Manhattan and are a great asset to the ORRP. Here's to bringing back The Big Oyster!