Hungry for a Northwest delicacy? Start digging.
That’s the advice of a Seattle author after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday the fall razor clam season will officially start this weekend.
Langdon Cook writes about wild foods and he says there might not be a more quintessential Washingtonian harvest than razor clams.
“This is probably the height of razor clam culture, right here in the Evergreen State,” he said. “We have good populations of clams, lots of opportunity to dig them. The resource has been managed really well by fish and wildlife.”
The first dig opens Friday and continues Saturday at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks after marine toxin tests showed clams on those beaches are safe to eat.
Cook suggests taking the trip to the beach for more than just a recreational outing. He sees it as a way to connect to the past.
“There’s something about digging razor clams that just really pushes all the ancestral buttons,” he said. “We’re all descendants of successful foragers.”
It may have been 11,000 years since the majority of Earth’s inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, but Cook says that link is part of the comfort in searching for wild foods.
“At the basic level, there’s something satisfying about finding your own dinner rather than going and getting some sort of pre-prepared food under plastic at the local grocery store,” he said.
He even suggests expanding your hunt, pointing out that Western Washington forests have plenty of treasures as well.
“Here in Puget Sound, we live in a temperate environment,” he said. “We can get out pretty much any month of the year and find some sort of wild food: Wild mushrooms, wild berries, wild greens.”
Cook said such activity can often be a family affair.
"I've been taking my kids foraging since they were babies," he said. "They've dug razor clams and picked morel mushrooms and huckleberries and as a result they really know their way around the woods. It's a great way to teach your kids about the outdoors."
When consuming food from the wild, though, it is important to know what you're eating.
“The first thing to remember is the foragers' Golden Rule: You never, ever eat anything from the wild without 100 percent certainty of its identification,” Cook said. “Most of the plants and mushrooms are just unpalatable. But then there a bunch that are really delicious and maybe a couple that could kill you.”
That’s why he suggests enlisting the advice of an expert.
“Certainly, field guides are helpful,” he said. “But there’s nothing better than going out with an instructor or someone that you really trust.”
Identifying your harvest isn't as much of a problem with razor clams, he admitted. It’s pretty difficult to mistake them for anything but the Northwest treasure they are.
“Coming home with a limit of these golden-hued clams, they're really beautiful to behold," he said. "The’re tasty. They’re meaty. In fact a good size razor clam probably has more meat on it than a small squab.”
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved this weekend's dig on evening tides. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.
The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and evening low tides:
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW's website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.
Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.
Information from the Department of Fish and Wildlife