Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolves around our relationship with the sea. We worry about making time to get to the beach, making boat reservations to get off-Island, and most importantly, making the most of the resources the ocean provides for us. This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight seafood as their Harvest of the Month–a sustainable and viable part of our Island economy and history, and a delicious and nutritious addition to our plates.
Hundreds of Island fishermen work through every season, in often dangerous conditions, to guarantee stocked local fish markets and restaurants. These men and women work to assure the livelihood of commercial fishing, and the future of Island fishing families and the trade.
If you don’t personally fish on Martha’s Vineyard you likely know someone that does. Drive by the Menemsha jetty most days and you’ll find fishing enthusiasts of all ages, ‘dropping lines’ into the water, maybe catching mackerel or fluke that they’ll use for lobster bait or that they’ll bake or bread for an easy fish fry. Drive by Edgartown harbor after sundown and you’ll see another contingent of locals jigging for squid. They’ll take it home, clean it, cut it, sauté it and have it for dinner, or even serve to their guests.
Scup is another commonly found fish, but it hasn’t historically been a popular fish to eat here. I was happy to see it recently featured on the menu at Port Hunter in Edgartown–an indication of the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to offering a local catch. Conch has the same stigma, but Chef Deon Thomas is working to change that with the launch of his new cookbook, Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery, which will explore the range of possibilities of cooking the affordable, sustainable mollusk.
As a food activist I was especially happy to provide my photography services for the book, part of my ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable food practices on Martha’sVineyard.
You can do your part to support the Island seafood economy by asking for the local catch at Island fish markets and restaurants. Quahogs, oysters, scallops, and mussels are especially important aquaculture and make for a delicious and nutritious dinner. IGS’ featured farm, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, works to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries by farming shellfish from from seed, and we thank them for it. Not only do we benefit from the food and economic boost, but these useful bivalves help provide us with cleaner seas–they serve as a sort of water filtration system, unintentionally ridding water of any pollutants present like herbicides or harmful bacteria.
Recently the group also began experimenting with sugar kelp, or seaweed, in hopes of bringing about a new enterprise on the Vineyard, it’s available in limited quantities on-Island so if you see it available you’re in luck!
Stay tuned for my new cookbook Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery by Chef Deon Thomas for more inspiration on enjoying local seafood.
Enjoy this Simple Fish Ceviche recipe from IGS
3 haddock, sea bass or any white flakey fish filets
½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh ripe mango, chopped
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
If using raw fish: Soak the fish in the lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Then cut the fish into small ½ inch bites.
If using cooked fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place fish filets in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until fish is flaky and moist. When fish is done let it cool completely and cut into small ½ inch bites.
Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss together with the fish until well combined. Place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to eat. Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado and enjoy!