Going on a Clam Hunt

Aug 6, 2013 | 1 comment

Boots UpEvery time (maybe twice a summer) we go out on our tide flats gathering steamers, I wonder why we do it so seldom.  I love being out there on the bay.  I love that we are the only ones visible.  I love looking back at Oysterville and seeing how small and fragile it really is.  I love the feel of the mud under my boots and the salty smell in the air. 

 Oysterville Yacht HarborWe headed out from our house about two hours past low tide yesterday morning.  Down the lane, over the muddy footpath, through the pickle weed, and past the ‘Oysterville Yacht Club’ – seven Lasers in waiting for their sailors-in-training for the Regatta later this month.

 The day was gray.  Again.  But there was no wind and there were lots of clams.  Nyel’s tool of choice is a garden rake.  Mine is a short-handled garden ‘claw.’  Tucker tells us he sits (sometimes lies) right down in the mud and uses his fingers to find the clams.   Whatever the method, gathering steamers requires persistence and a modicum of work, but nothing like getting razor clams over on the ocean. 

Clam HuntSteamers or Manila clams (technically Venerupis philippinarum for those who care) are relatively new to our bay and to the rest of Washington.  They came in with the oyster seed shipments from Japan beginning in the 1930s and were not evident at all during my childhood.  It took them awhile to establish themselves, but now I understand that they account for about fifty percent of the commercially harvested clams in our State.

They are similar to the littleneck clams that I do remember from childhood.  We used to gather those over on Long Island where there is the kind of gravelly shore that they prefer.  Manila clams like a gravel bed, too, and the growers around here have imported gravel to create a better habitat for them.  We haven’t done any “improving” to our tidelands and though the steamers aren’t as populous on our mudflats, there are plenty for our meager requirements.  As I say… once or twice a year is it for us.Scrub-a-Dub-Dub

Once gathered, of course, we have to lug them back home, scrub the mud off each of the little darlings, and leave them in a bucket of fresh salt water (is that an oxymoron?) for a few hours to clean themselves.  The process is labor intensive but worth every bit of effort.  With a tossed green salad, loaves of crusty French bread and plenty of garlic butter, a meal of steamers can’t be topped.  One more reason to love living on the edge in Oysterville!

1 Comment

  1. Jo

    I agree, that is a meal that can’t be beat! I, too, have enjoyed little neck clams in my childhood. Dad used to go to the Providence fish market to get ours, as we lived in the north west corner of RI. Good eating.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *