Tomahawk Oyster Flavor Profile Characteristics

Tomahawk Oysters are an East Coast oyster from one of the Massachusetts & Rhode Island oyster appellations. They are cultivated by the Wampanoag people in Menemsha Pond, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Tomahawk Oysters are rack & bag farmed oysters. Rack & bag cultured oysters are grown in mesh cages or bags which are generally staked about one to two feet off the bottom. Oysters raised by the rack & bag method are protected from predators and do not become cramped for space as they grow. They also do not have to filter as much sand & mud in order to get nutrients, thus they grow faster. They develop a deeper cup than beach cultured oysters. However, if the oyster is raised entirely this way then they are pampered and their shells tend to be brittle which makes them difficult to shuck without breaking.


Tomahawk Oyster
Location Menemsha Pond, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Species Virginica Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)
Oyster Availability No longer available
Size up to 3 1/2″
Oyster Cultivation Rack & Bag cultivation
Oyster Flavor Profile Tomahawk Oysters have well defined cups, a medium brine with a clean, fresh flavor and a lemony finish.


Comments from before Site Migration

TMR [ Feb 01, 2012 ]

Tomahawk Oysters from Martha’s Vineyard are no longer available and have not been available for several years. Ages ago, the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island grew oysters by capturing the free-swimming larvae on branches they placed in Shinnecock Bay, then moving the tiny spat to safer salt ponds for growout. Today, the Shinnecock are again raising oysters in their bay, just south of Southampton, only this time using modern plastic trays that they place in the bay. When the oysters are old enough to withstand predation, they are moved to the bay bottom, where they are exposed every low tide, which causes them to, ahem, clam up. This daily Pilates gives the oysters nice, strong “eyes”—the central muscle that provides a lot of an oyster’s sweetness and chewiness. The intense tides also bring lots of food past the oysters, allowing them to grow to market size in just a year or so—about twice the normal rate.

The result? A noticeably chewy, medium-sized oyster with moderate salinity, decent body, and pretty jade shells with brick-colored swirls. I have no idea what accounts for the almost volatile, celery & sagebrush finish, but I like it. Look for Tomahawk, a trademarked brand of Shinnecocks. (Not to be confused with the old Tomahawks, which were grown by the Wampanoag tribe on Martha’s Vineyard and have been defunct for several years.)

Source: The Oyster Guide


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