Peacock Garden, a staple in Coconut Grove, and Watershed Action Lab are doing their part to reduce the environmental impact on Biscayne Bay by restoring the bay's oyster population.
See Also: Our Ultimate Coral Gables Food Guide
Biscayne Bay oyster populations are declining due to pollution, negatively impacting our waters because adult oysters are the bay's filter. Oysters can filter an average of 50 gallons of water a day (CBF.org).
Peacock Garden preserves the shells straight from the seafood bar and donates them to Watershed Action Lab to return to the ocean and create a new habitat for future generations of oysters.
View this post on Instagram
2889 McFarlane Road / Website
How did you hear about Watershed Action Lab? And why did the restaurant decide to collaborate with them? What was attractive about their mission?
Lalo Durazo (Peacock Garden Owner): Tyler Greenan, one of our restaurant regulars and Watershed Action Lab volunteer, presented this opportunity to us and agreed to pick up shells from the restaurant on a weekly basis. Because we offer oysters on the menu and have $2 oyster specials on Tuesdays, we thought it would be great to give back and make use of these used oyster shells that we normally wouldn't use. Keeping our waters clean is critical, so we're happy to help in any way that we can.
How did this idea to restore Biscayne Bay's oyster population come about? Was this in the works, or did Watershed come to you and ask for support?
Lalo Durazo: We look to support our local communities and environment in any way we can. Knowing that each live oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day when the Watershed Action Lab presented us this great opportunity to give back and help restore our waters, we immediately knew we wanted to take part. We are passionate about this partnership.
How often do you donate oysters to the Watershed Action Lab team? How many oysters do you think are donated weekly?
Lalo Durazo: We donate about 1,500 shells (5 buckets) on a weekly basis.
What are oyster dishes offered at the restaurant?
Lalo Durazo: We offer several dishes that feature oysters, including fresh oysters with yuzu soy mignonette and smoky mezcal, as well as grilled oysters made with garlic parsley and parmesan cheese.
Where do you get your oysters, and what advice do you have for people who have never tried this delicacy and want to try them at your restaurant? What makes your oyster dishes special?
Lalo Durazo: We use East Coast Oysters from the waters off of Cape Cod. Oysters are very delicious and can be a tasty, refreshing addition to a hot summer day. Our fresh oysters offer guests a sweet and smoky blend of flavors thanks to Peacock Garden's signature recipe that features citrusy flavors, from the yuzu soy mignonette and smoky mezcal cocktail sauce. These oysters are served over a bed of ice and offer guests a sweet, refreshing bite with an added kick as they are topped with spicy jalapeno. The grilled oysters' dish offers guests a richer, savory option as the oysters are cooked and topped with a blend of parmesan cheese, butter, lime, and garlic. We offer oysters every day of the week, but on Tuesdays, guests can enjoy our $2 oyster Tuesday specials, which might be best for those trying oysters for the first time.
Peacock Garden is big on nature; what other ways does the restaurant participate in the preservation and protection of habitat and wildlife?
Lalo Durazo: Peacock Garden has also partnered with Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and The Million Orchid Project, a program focused on propagating millions of native orchids and other important orchids for reintroduction into South Florida's urban landscapes, which is why guests can spot orchids blooming throughout the restaurant's outdoor garden oasis. (Peacock Garden)
View this post on Instagram
How was Watershed Action Lab born?
Tico Aran (Founder of the Watershed Action Lab): Watershed Action Lab was born as a response to the 2020 fishkill in Biscayne Bay. I was raised by the waters of Biscayne Bay, and when this last fishkill happened, it felt like the only thing on the table for regular citizens to do was to push lawmakers or rely on scientists. We need to be a part of this process if we want to heal Biscayne Bay.
What are some other restaurants that Watershed Action Lab works with in Miami? How did you reach out to Peacock Garden, and what attracted you to work with the restaurant?
Tico Aran: We have worked with Michael's Genuine and Kush Hospitality Group. We started working with Peacock Garden when one of our volunteers and restaurant regulars, Tyler Greenan, committed to picking up shells on a weekly basis.
Describe your mission and how you work with other restaurants/locations.
Tico Aran: The best partnership is when a restaurant has a special oyster night. They keep shells in an airtight 5-gallon paint bucket, and a committed volunteer picks them up the next day.
How can locals help? What does volunteering look like?
Tico Aran: There are 6 ways to help:
1. Donate, so we can move the mission of healing Biscayne Bay using citizen science and community action forward
2. Pick up oyster shells from a local restaurant
3. Build oyster lines with your school, company, or other community groups
4. Volunteer your dock so we can add oyster lines for the project
5. Help us monitor the living oysters in Biscayne Bay on the Ushahidi App
6. Internships - We are working on university-level research projects to help determine the best placement and strategies to support the filter feeders of Biscayne Bay
Can you describe the process from receiving oysters from the restaurant to returning them to the bay?
Tico Aran: We take the shells and leave them to cure for three months to kill any organisms from other water bodies. Once cured, we drill holes in them and string them on lines to biomimic mangrove roots. People can volunteer their docks so that we can attach these lines to them.
Describe the process of Oyster restoration through shells.
Tico Aran: Baby oysters are floating through the water already but don't have enough places to attach themselves to. These lines are the perfect habitat for native oysters and other filter feeders that will attach to the lines and provide water quality benefits to the waters entering Biscayne Bay.
Each canal is a different watershed basin. In the Coral Gables waterway, if we add 3000 lines, we could filter close to 15 million gallons of water per day that would match wet season flow rates in the canal.
What other efforts besides shells are you involved in to save Biscayne Bay?
Tico Aran: Watershed Action Lab's vision is to heal Biscayne Bay by focusing on soil health and water quality by using citizen science and community action.
The oyster project is our first, and there are many ways to participate. We are also currently working on research to map and assess oyster health in Biscayne bay.
We are also starting to organize and build a community around soil health and introducing regenerative agriculture practices to Miami Dade. You might not know this, but Miami Dade is the second largest agricultural producing county in Florida. These practices can not only help water quality in Biscayne Bay, but also increase farmer profitability and make them more resilient against climate change, drought, floods, and input price fluctuations.
What do you want readers to take away from these efforts? What makes this collaboration so significant?
Tico Aran: You can make a difference in the healing of our bay. Each neighborhood is in charge of the water quality it releases from its drainage canal into the bay. Every neighborhood has a different set of challenges.
Your individual action and/or voice can contribute to the greater effort. We need to act as the community we are so we can bring Biscayne Bay back to health. A healthy Biscayne Bay makes our community healthier and more resilient to climate change and storms.
Photography by: Courtesy Huang Yikai/Unsplash, Ben Stern/Unsplash