Pacific Razor Clams - Gastro Obscura
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Meats & Animal Products

Pacific Razor Clams

It takes patience and skill to harvest these delicious bivalves.

Hearing “razor clam” might bring to mind the long, rectangular Atlantic variety (Ensis directus). But the Pacific razor clam (Siliqua patula) is an ovular, meaty bivalve that’s a far cry from its East Coast counterpart. The Northwestern clam makes its home along the coasts of Washington and British Colombia, where fans stand outside, often in the rain and while it’s still dark, just to dig for shelled morsels.

Hunters use the sand-dweller’s telltale dimple marking in the sand to indicate the location of their target. Just before low tide, they set out with clam gun (a piece of PVC pipe with an attached handle) or shovel in one hand, and a bucket in the other. They are limited to a daily catch of 15 clams, and any creature damaged by a digging tool counts toward the total.

Some harvesters eat the whole animal, while others opt to remove its stomach, as it imparts a slightly metallic, muddy taste. Most people are usually after the clam’s siphon and digger, which are considered the choicest sections of tender, slightly chewy meat.

It should be noted that Pacific razor clams can sometimes contain dangerous levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin that occurs in some shellfish and can cause diarrhea, amnesia, or death. Thanks to careful testing of clam toxin levels, no one has died from amnesiac shellfish poisoning since 1987. But scientists are still looking into how a lifetime of dining on creatures such as razor clams can affect one’s health. In the meantime, the Washington State Department of Health recommends limiting oneself to eating 15 clams per month.

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