Happy As A Clam At High Tide

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I remember as a child going digging for clams with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins by the light of the moon or sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.  While the adults made the long walk down to the shore, we children skipped, cartwheeled, and zig-zagged in a not so serious race to find the first holes in the sand. They were abundant so we were all ‘winners.’  The holes indicated a clam beneath and the adults would then dig and collect it, some using a shovel, others preferring to dig by hand.

At home in Maine we harvested ‘steamers’, but razor clams are what we harvest here on the island and the method to gather them is much different. They taste nearly the same, but I think the razor clam might be more meaty.

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This weekend there was a spring tide so Johnny and I took our youngest four and headed off.  With bucket and spades in hand we went to the beach, an hour before the low tide.  Like steamers, they live along the lower shoreline, concentrated mostly well out to sea beyond our reach, thus the expression ‘Happy as a clam at high tide.’   It is only at the low, low (spring) tide that the effort is worth it.  That leaves only a couple chances a month, weather permitting.

There is also an older method of collecting them by using a wire implement that has a hooked end. The sharp end is thrust down the clam hole and is then twisted and extracted with the clam on the end.  A young boy was using this wire while his father did what we and most others do–drag your foot or shovel lightly across the sand until a hole appears.  Pour salt into the hole and, disliking the saline concentration, the razor clams muscles itself to the surface and ‘pops’ out of the hole.

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They are filter feeders and the expulsion of water from their siphon causes holes in the sand.  You might see jets of water shooting out from the sand and upwards – that’s what forms the holes. These jets, and the holes, indicate the presence of clams below.

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In all, we filled not quite one bucket.  With cold, wet, and muddy children, we left sooner than we would have liked, but without regrets for they really enjoyed themselves.  Our oldest, who was at dancing lessons at the time, was a bit peeved to be left out.  We went back the next day, but with no luck.  Maybe the torrential rain the night before had something to do with it.  We could barely make a line in the sand before it was washed over by rainwater running down from atop the island. or maybe the tide just wasn’t low enough anymore.

It would be mad to ignore this monthly opportunity, therefore, we go at each chance we get in hopes of stocking our freezer with this delicious gift from the sea.

20 Comments

    • They taste like the sea! 😉 Really similar to regular clams. We swapped some of our clams with someone who had been diving for mussels, funny you would mention them. They aren’t as tender as mussels, but have a wonderful texture, comparable to the rings of calamari.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. elliwest2014 says:

    I love it! We really should go around here but I have only collected Ca mollusks (mussels.) We did it all the time when I was growing up. I know Maine has some great claming I just don’t know where to start. Glad the kids got to hunt up their food! What fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am forever talking about the clam shacks in Maine. The only thing I have any inkling to deep fry. I dream of a little clam shack for the tourists here…imagining their faces light up when they dip into homemade tartar sauce. Maybe someday.
      I think you need a license (err, revenue maker) nowadays to clam in Maine.

      Like

  2. datatater says:

    Oh my lord! I just did a post about clamming (sort of)!!!! I’m glad I didn’t read yours first; I wouldn’t have bothered to write my clearly inferior piece, and then I would have gone even LONGER without posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Roz Hill says:

    What a great productive way to spend time with your kids! It reminds me when we were young , we were fortunate to have holidays on the North Wales coast every year. My parents both fished for bass and we helped to set lines on the incoming tide. We cooked it on a campfire, sang songs and watched for shooting stars. 💚❤️🐓

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a small world isn’t it? So grateful for this treasures of the sea. I adore steamers too!! Johnny has allergic reaction to them, poor thing. I was shocked there was no fish monger on the island when I first arrived. Now I see why, most people go out and get their own or they have a fisherman in the family who lands home with a freezer full every six weeks or so. There are so many lovely traditions I enjoy here.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I laughed out loud….yesterday I ate huge amounts of a variety of fresh seafood, including just out of the sand razor clams …than a person should ever admit to consuming…. and I was yakking it up about filter feeders and made the remark I was “Happy As a Clam.” ..Just loved this post of yours so much!

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    • I love those posts; the ones you were meant to cross paths with, so timely!! Jealous of your ‘variety’. We are going clamming again this Thurs, another spring tide. Super duper low and while the children are in school so we will spend the day and stock the freezer.
      Maybe someday your travels will bring you this way (we’re not too far from Italy) and we can share some fresh Aran clams together. Xx

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  5. Pingback: Come Out Of Your Shell | The Aran Artisan

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