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On the Geoduck Trail – Quintessential Puget Sound

Summer in Washington State

Location: Key Peninsula Washington USA

Growing up on and frankly IN the Puget Sound, I’m very aware and appreciative of the unique, beautiful and delicious bounty this body of water provides. A true Washingtonian loves seafood of all kinds from clams to salmon, oysters to Dungeness crab. Don’t ever try to tell me East Coast crab is better. Delusional.

Geoduck harvesting
Low summer tide in the Puget Sound

As you know if you follow this blog I eat just about anything, and I’m not afraid of seafood or shellfish. When I was a child we dug steamer clams right in my front yard. We traveled to Ocean Shores to dig razor clams every spring. And each summer we harvested dozens of Dungeness crabs from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

geoduck harvest
Huge monster clams

But for some reason, despite how delicious it is, I had never harvested geoduck, the giant, funny and phallic looking clam unique to this part of the world.

geoduck harvest
That’s a big boy

Until now. Thanks to our friends who invited us, along with several other couples to try our hand at geoducking during a recent extreme low-tide (Puget Sound experiences extreme low-tides in the summer creating a perfect opportunity to hunt the giant clam that usually bores into the sand in deep water.)

geoduck mouth in the sand
Finding the mouth peeking out of the sand

Geoducks can be found buried very deep in the sand, as much as four or more feet deep. At low tide, you can carefully walk around the beach and look for a tiny “mouth” sticking out of the sand, usually less than an inch. Depending on how long the geoduck’s neck is, the body of the beast will be found deep in the sand below where you spot the mouth. A geoduck neck can be four feet long. They can live more than 150 years.

geoduck harvest
Working the tube down into the sand

Non-commercial harvesters will dig deep after spotting the mouth. Our friends used a large metal tube placed over where the mouth was found. Digging down inside the tube to locate the body of the geoduck, increasing the depth of the tube into the sand as you dig. Commercial geoduck harvesters have other methods (a very lucrative commercial market serves the Chinese insatiable appetite for geoduck). Read about it here.

how to harvest geoduck
The ungraceful grab of the geoduck deep in the mud

As soon as you start digging the geoduck will pull its very long neck back down from the surface. But, despite what some people think, the geoduck cannot “run”. It can only retract the neck but its body will stay in place. Digging dip to find the body without hitting the body with the shovel makes for a delicate process. But the next part is neither delicate or graceful.

On the hunt for the Pacific Northwest geoduck
Our hosts Jeff and Dayl know how and where to harvest the geoduck

Lying on your stomach you must reach deep into the muck inside the hole and grasp the giant clam by the shell….not the neck or you might pull the neck off. Loosening the clam from the deep mud where it has embedded itself securely takes some strength (and a few choice words). With luck you will come up with a giant geoduck weighing anywhere from one pound to as much as four pounds!

crazy and funny looking geoduck
Watch out for the squirt

The next step is to take lots of funny pictures of these decidedly phallic looking creatures and spend some time wondering about Mother Nature and her sense of humor.

Our harvest

Then it’s time to clean them. First rinse of all visible mud and sand. Next they need to be dipped in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This loosens the outer skin (sometimes referred to as the condom) around the neck. It’s not edible until that skin is removed. Next clean the guts and stomach and rinse again. See a video here.

how to clean geoduck
Remove the tough membrane from the neck after a quick blanche in boiling water

Finally it’s time to eat. Our friends prepared an amazing geoduck sashimi with three dipping sauces. Eating the sweet and fresh as it gets delicacy couldn’t have been more delicious. Our efforts rewarded.

Sashimi, as fresh as it gets

After our wonderful day on the beach with friends we brought home three good size geoducks. I prepared geoduck ceviche – a perfect way to serve the fresh uncooked, tender body meat. I highly recommend this recipe I found on Pinterest. I used Mango in place of Papaya and it was amazing. See it here.

Geoduck Ceviche

Next I used my food processor to grind the necks (which are tougher and more chewy than the body). Grind in small batches so it doesn’t get too mushy. I used the ground meat to make geoduck fritters served with a delicious dipping sauce of siracha, mayo and lemon. I found a recipe for Conch fritters that I adapted easily. See the fritter recipe here.

Geoduck Fritters

Finally I put the rest of the ground geoduck in a freezer bag and put it in my freezer. A week later it was used in a delicious geoduck chowder. When making chowder with geoduck you can use about half the usual amount of meat ratio to potatoes and other ingredients. I used both clam juice and chicken stock as my base instead of just clam as mentioned in this recipe. It was delicious.

The geoduck team
Everyone had a great time!

To harvest any shellfish in the Pacific Northwest you need to have a shellfish license. See the rules here. It’s important not to over harvest, so that these delicious Puget Sound creatures will be around for generations to come, just like they have been for generations in the past. The name geoduck is derived from a a local Native American word from the Lushootseed (Nisqually) people gʷídəq. Puget Sound Native American’s harvested local shellfish and seafood long before any of us were here.

Don’t fear the Geoduck despite it’s unusual look. Respect and enjoy this delicate, sweet, not fishy tasting and delicious giant clam of the Puget Sound.

Summer in Washington State – Fabulous!

Sincere thanks to Kameron Minch for many of these photos in this blog and to our friends Jeff and Dayl Minch for such a fun day.

From Bloomberg News – Geoduck facts

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18 Comments

  • Reply Christina Daggett

    Your posts are always so interesting and informative Laureen. I had never heard of the Geoduck clam. The recipes sound really tasty too. Thanks for sharing. Following you on Pinterest now.

    July 19, 2019 at 8:52 am
  • Reply Nadia

    Omg. Those things are outrageous!!! Never seen a sea creature like them!! Looks like a awesome experience though!!

    July 19, 2019 at 5:53 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      It was an adventure!

      July 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Ruth

    I want to visit just so I can try this seafood. Looks interesting.

    July 20, 2019 at 2:36 am
  • Reply Faith Coates

    I’ve seen these things and read about how good they taste but just don’t know if I can get beyond those looks lol.

    July 20, 2019 at 4:24 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I know what you mean!

      July 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Alma

    I’ve never heard of a Geoduck clam. It could certainly feed a lot of people. Had a good laugh.

    July 20, 2019 at 6:31 am
  • Reply Jmac

    Nope. No Ma’am. Nada.
    Your buddy Lisa introduces me to this on my first visit to PNW. Ain’t happening!!!
    What I would compare this to in south is CHITLINS!!!!! Aaaacccckkkkk…look that one up!
    And I will eat anything!!! Nope not that gooey duck

    July 20, 2019 at 7:04 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Haha. To each her own!

      July 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Brianna

    I’ve always wanted to try geoduck, there’s nothing like it here on the east coast

    July 20, 2019 at 10:05 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Its surprisingly sweet!

      July 20, 2019 at 10:06 am
  • Reply Christie Hawkes

    Hello Laureen. I found your blog through a comment on Bree’s 3 Sisters Abroad blog. I had never heard of a geoduck clam and certainly got a good laugh from the look of them. I hope the flavor was worth the effort, though the harvesting of the geoduck was probably an adventure in itself. Thanks for sharing it with us. Have a lovely day!

    ~Christie

    July 20, 2019 at 11:36 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Nice to meet you and thanks for the comment! Subscribe please!

      July 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Nancy Williams

    I Have never heard of geoduck, but I definitely want to try it now!

    July 20, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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