Anyone not native to the Pacific Northwest will be shocked at his first sight of a geoduck clam. This abomination of a bivalve vaguely resembles a steamer clam except four to five times its natural size, like some harbinger of Godzilla in a Japanese monster movie. Instead of a tasty mouthful or two, these things could choke a professional wrestler. If cut in half. The geoduck is used in Oregon primarily as a mascot.
Should you visit the Pike’s Place open air seafood market in Seattle, aside from watching cheerful musclemen toss salmon of thirty pounds or more at one another, “heads up! coming at ya champ!,” there is the vicarious thrill of watching tourists cringe in disgust as the counterman holds up a softshell clam ten inches or more across, with a neck as long as five or six inches. “Yep, it’s a clam all right. Who wants to try it?” Generally no one. Seeing a geoduck for the second time is fun if there is a crowd.
Geoducts, pronounced “gooey-ducks” are in fact edible despite their freakish appearance. They can be made into chowder, chopped into pieces for various Italian dishes and even steamed. The key difference between New England steamer clams and geoducks is that the former are eaten whole. Geoduck necks are the part used for cooking.
It can take years for these bivalves to reach their famous size, and there have been examples of geoducks surviving past the century mark, even several decades past. They are not ubiquitous like steamer clams and hard-shelled clams, and are almost exclusive to the Puget Sound region of Washington State. For this reason, they are the least-well-known clams although related to the razor clam.
Native American tribes were the first to consume geoducks.
Today’s clam fan is most likely to encounter them in one of Seattle’s more
adventurous restaurants. They are served under the same name, or sometimes
made into sushi. It is possible for Joe or Jane Sixpack to harvest them, but
due to the tedium involved, it is best to take advantage of their ready
availability at Puget Sound seafood markets, unless one enjoys freezing
while wet and being attacked by insects, during the summer. Geoducks also
dig much faster than other clams and are difficult to catch. They can sense
fingers trying to grab them and will try to dig themselves away. Sometimes
they escape. Losing to a clam can be discouraging.