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Keep Clam and Carry On
June 19, 2012 12:11 AM   Subscribe

"A single pair of these gleaming mollusks sold at a Puget Sound dock could pay for an upscale Seattle dinner for two. A half-dozen sold in a Hong Kong grocery could fetch nearly enough cash to make a four-figure mortgage payment. Three milk crates of these shellfish purchased at a Shanghai restaurant could pay for a year of undergraduate tuition at the University of Washington." The Seattle Times investigates undocumented clams, and Business Week explores the impact on Native Americans.

The geoduck is the largest burrowing clam found in the solar system so far, and spawning and harvesting it are dirty jobs. But the results can be worth it, especially if prepared sashimi-style. There's also a documentary for those who let it all hang out (trailer), and you might catch a rare unburrowed glimpse on a college campus.

(Previously.)
posted by HMSSM (43 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Adding "undocumented clams" to my list of possible future band names.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:16 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


"We've had a few reports of boats out at night, boats that are acting suspiciously and their captains refusing to tell people what they're doing," said Sgt. Mike Hobbs, with state Fish and Wildlife's special investigation's unit. "When they're approached they tell people to say 'You didn't see anything.' "
"...or we'll stuff you upside down in the mud to sleep with the clams,"
The captain said, as he stroked his salty beard slowly.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


They really aren't that tasty. Way too tough.

Maybe I was doing it wrong.
posted by bardic at 12:22 AM on June 19, 2012


I am amused that the Evergreen mascot is now partly green. Because the first time I was on campus and saw someone in a geoduck costume, I'm pretty sure it wasn't green, and it looked a lot more phallic than the current costume. But that was a long time ago.

When Washington first made college license plates available, I was looking forward to the Evergreen plates, because at the time the UW had a Husky on theirs, WSU had a Cougar, and I figured TESC would get a Geoduck and my license plate would cause double-takes all over the place. But someone chickened out and we got the darned tree logo instead. (Now they've changed the plates so all the colleges have different designs than they did originally, but at least the new TESC ones say "Omnia Extares": "Let it all hang out"!)
posted by litlnemo at 12:26 AM on June 19, 2012


When Washington first made college license plates available, I was looking forward to the Evergreen plates, because at the time the UW had a Husky on theirs, WSU had a Cougar, and I figured TESC would get a Geoduck and my license plate would cause double-takes all over the place

Wow, what a dense mesh of acronyms and proper names and vernacular. I had to read it very closely a couple of times. And I still don't understand what inspires an idea like "college license plates" in the first place. What an alien culture!
posted by deo rei at 12:46 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A single pair of these gleaming mollusks sold at a Puget Sound dock could pay for an upscale Seattle dinner for two.

We had dinner recently at an upscale restaurant in Seattle and ended up paying for a single pair of mollusks. They did gleam though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:00 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


undocumented clams

A sorry end to binomial nomenclature.
posted by biffa at 1:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Only tangentially related, but when a friend's hippie husband spoke wistfully of poaching abalone, I was tempted to deck him.
posted by smirkette at 1:28 AM on June 19, 2012


"Wow, what a dense mesh of acronyms and proper names and vernacular. I had to read it very closely a couple of times. And I still don't understand what inspires an idea like "college license plates" in the first place."

Heh. The Evergreen State College (TESC): university in Washington state in the USA. The school mascot is the geoduck. University of Washington (UW) mascot is the husky. Washington State University (WSU) mascot is the cougar. College plates are customized for each school, and if you purchase a college plate, each year part of your plate fee is donated to the college you're supporting.
posted by litlnemo at 2:13 AM on June 19, 2012


Geoduck fight song
posted by telstar at 2:32 AM on June 19, 2012


All I can think of is this Dirty Jobs segment.
posted by mrbill at 2:55 AM on June 19, 2012


.
posted by The Whelk at 3:32 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Three milk crates of these shellfish purchased at a Shanghai restaurant could pay for a year of undergraduate tuition at the University of Washington.

That's a lot of clams!
posted by chavenet at 4:04 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And all this is because they look like willies, amirite?
posted by scruss at 4:36 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, baloney.
posted by mollweide at 4:46 AM on June 19, 2012


Comment cuisiner la palourde royale.
posted by the painkiller at 4:51 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clams that look like penises, dogs and cats, it's the end of times
posted by nathancaswell at 4:58 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. The Evergreen State College (TESC): university in Washington state in the USA. The school mascot is the geoduck. University of Washington (UW) mascot is the husky. Washington State University (WSU) mascot is the cougar.

Way to go, completely leaving out the Eastern Washington University (EWU) Eagles.
posted by hippybear at 5:07 AM on June 19, 2012


Do I get a slight sense of concern from that Bloomberg article that the Native duckers have gained an unfair advantage by exploiting a legal loophole in a treaty, and that maybe they won't know what to do with all that money anyway?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:27 AM on June 19, 2012


My wife and I grew up around all the seafood the Gulf of Mexico has to offer but we were totally freaked out the first time we encountered a gooeyduck when we moved to Seattle. Any time I saw one in a grocery store I had to go out of my way to grab my wife and exclaim "look honey, PENIS clams!" She was never as amused I was.
posted by photoslob at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2012


Man, I can't wait to go scalloping when season opens near the end of the month.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:17 AM on June 19, 2012


geoduck

c'mon, that can't be a real thing

that's obviously a pokemon
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:23 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks, the painkiller, hadn't seen that in a long time...definitely on topic...and funny =)
posted by rmmcclay at 6:35 AM on June 19, 2012


geoduck

c'mon, that can't be a real thing


Well, for a couple of years they were branded as Chevy Ducks.
posted by dhartung at 6:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Woah, there, Devils Rancher. Are you saying that’s how the article reads for you, or that you are actually concerned on those two counts? Just want to straighten that out... I think the tribes deserve anything they can get and more.
posted by SirNovember at 7:09 AM on June 19, 2012


Do I get a slight sense of concern from that Bloomberg article that the Native duckers have gained an unfair advantage by exploiting a legal loophole in a treaty, and that maybe they won't know what to do with all that money anyway?

If you do, it's purely because you dislike Businessweek. That's nice, but no-one cares.
posted by atrazine at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2012


It's interesting to see how the harvesting is managed by the DNR. It seems to me that "clear-cutting" would be more damaging to the ecosystem than just harvesting, say, a random 25% of clams in a given tract, but I guess it is harder to keep track of. I was also a little dismayed that the turnaround for all of the tracts combined (at 2.7% per year) is about 37 years, quite a bit less than the full lifespan of a geoduck. Then again, if they're only harvesting from 150 out of 44,000 acres, I suppose that leaves a lot of the population around to recover.

Native American resource and land management rights have been contentious issues in the great lakes area over the past years.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


dhartung That is gooey ducks not as spelled geoducks. The reference to Chevy doesn't work.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:33 AM on June 19, 2012


The PRI show Marketplace did a story fairly recently - http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/funny-looking-clam-fetches-top-dollar-china.
posted by of strange foe at 7:35 AM on June 19, 2012


Are you saying that’s how the article reads for you, or that you are actually concerned on those two counts? Just want to straighten that out... I think the tribes deserve anything they can get and more.

I'm detecting just a twinge of that in the article, but maybe it's me. I'm probably hyper-vigilant for that sort of colonial paternalism and condescension though, as I'm a (smallish) part Native American and that shit really gets under my skin.

I'm exceedingly glad that thy got a favorable reading of their treaty from that judge. It's a good step in the right direction.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2012


I cant be the only one that heard 'undocumented clams' in Homer Simpson's voice as it was read.
posted by otters walk among us at 7:42 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


...the frequency of skulduggery has increased dramatically...

Mike Cenci, deputy enforcement chief for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is my new favorite person.
posted by neroli at 7:47 AM on June 19, 2012


dhartung That is gooey ducks not as spelled geoducks. The reference to Chevy doesn't work.

I have friends in Olympia (home of the Evergreen State College) who drove a Geo for a while. They called it "the Gooey."
posted by KathrynT at 8:12 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have an undocumented clam. In my pants.
posted by loquacious at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So people are stealing these clams from the ocean and selling them? What a bunch of shelfish bastards.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 8:35 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


So consternation continues over clam claims that culminate in copious cash, then?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, they now connect to Starbucks-branded T-Mobil hotspots using touch screens and have been rebranded GUIdux. Top marine biologists have identified them as running a naturally occurring version of Windows® Motile for Mollusks™. True story.

Top Marine Biologists.
posted by stet at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


dhartung That is gooey ducks not as spelled geoducks. The reference to Chevy doesn't work.

I apologize; my levity was clearly inappropriate when dealing with something this gooey.
posted by dhartung at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2012


They really aren't that tasty. Way too tough.

Maybe I was doing it wrong.


The key is eat it raw or cooked very, very briefly in broth (seconds) for a more crunchier mouthfeel. It's quite pleasantly sweet and goes down very nicely as sashimi.
posted by tksh at 3:11 PM on June 19, 2012


I have had it maybe 3 times in my life, and not recently. It is truly delicious, there isn't anything else quite like it. Better than most uni I've had.

It is saddening to learn about overexploitation and exclusionary economy.
posted by polymodus at 7:03 PM on June 19, 2012


Geoduck sashimi is garbage, like lobster sashimi. Both of these bounties from the sea are better *just* cooked not only for texture but also in bringing out their complex flavours.

Geoduck's *just cooked* is sloshing/toshing it (siphon slices cut very thinly) in a pan of medium-hot oil (way sub-smoking, maybe a 7.5 on a large electric burner) for 2-3 seconds, enough to expose most surfaces to heat, then douse with brown sauce*, turn off heat. Serve immediately over a bed of wilted shredded romanian/iceburg lettuce or sauteed sliced oyster mushrooms.

The siphon is the center of attention, but the body of the geoduck is also extraordinarily delicious, perhaps even moreso. The mouthfeel is very different and some people dislike it. Most places will clean it for you and give you the flesh, if you ask for the whole mollusk instead of buying (or being sold) just the siphon. Sliced into chunks (bite-sized or x2) and made into soup with salted pork (a chunk of pork, some roast cut, fatty is better; dry-brine, age in fridge for about a week. Rinse well before using. Slice into x2 bite-sized to x5 bite-sized) with a tin of condensed chicken broth, or even your own broth. Awesomeness kind of tops out, so a tin of Campbells is just dandy. Add seaweed (nori) at the end of soup-making, and maybe some chunks of tofu. It's absolutely incredible. (You eat everything.)

Geoduck is also a favourite in hotpots; not only can you control how long it's being cooked to your personal preference, it also seasons the cooking broth wonderfully.

It's a damned shame nobody has figured out a breakthrough way of farming these guys. They're incredibly tasty, but being severly depleted. When my family first moved to Vancouver in '85, a pound of geoduck was $0.99 CDN. They were much healthier looking and much larger than are available now.

I haven't had any in several years, mostly due to my acknowledging their endangerment and somewhat due to the price/quality these days. It seems like there's decent abalone farming (please correct me if I'm wrong) such that the price/quality/sustainability has stabilized into a reasonable spot (~$10 CDN for a medium-sized live abalone in shell). If farmed geoduck could achieve half that price ($20 for an equivalent amount as 1 abalone), I'd go for geoduck over abalone 9 times out of 10.

*1tbs water 1 tbs dark Chinese cooking wine, 1 tbs oyster sauce (for a medium ~7 inch siphon) mixed well. Toss it all into the pan. The second part of brown sauce is about 3 tbs of cool water with 1tbs of tapioca starch, mixed well. Drizzle this non-Newtonian into pan, mixing/tossing quickly. Experience is important here to determine how much of this starch suspension you want/need to add.
posted by porpoise at 7:33 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


While the brown sauce is mostly for what you're serving the geoduck on, rather than to add flavour to the geoduck - the geoduck adds flavour to the sauce, and makes the veggies taste better than brown sauce alone - it also acts as a thermal brake and sucks a lot of the hot from the cooking area so the geoduck doesn't overcook. If you want a more "clean" taste, definitely go ahead and leave out the oyster sauce and replace it with a half-part each of water and high quality dark-coloured Chinese cooking wine.
posted by porpoise at 7:38 PM on June 19, 2012


Washington geoducks (pronounced "gooey ducks")

Really? Gooey Ducks? I guess that explains why everyone looked at me funny when I said "gooey cities".
posted by Metro Gnome at 7:44 PM on June 19, 2012


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