Author and chef Langdon Cook and Carolyn Ossorio of ParentMap talk about how to go clamming on local beaches.
For people who've not tried clamming before, it can be intimidating. But kids and parents really stand to learn a lot, don't they?
Langdon: Today's children are tomorrow's environmental stewards. The best way to get them connected to the natural world is to spend that time outdoors. But as we know, kids need a purpose, so that's what foraging offers. It's a treasure hunt where the kids get to be muddy and boot-deep in the mucky shellfish bed. But then there's an amazing final meal that is the exclamation mark on a day spent mucking around outside.
What do parents need to do to prepare kids for this kind of adventure?
Carolyn: You can forage for manila clams year round, so appropriate attire is weather dependent. This time of year, I suggest gearing up with usual beach attire for a full day at the beach: sunscreen, sun shirts, shorts and boots or heavy duty sandals. Foraging tools are your basic garden claws and beach buckets. Beach chairs are great, but bring a few blankets to feast upon.
You want to make sure to bring plenty of snacks. Foraging for clams and cooking your catch on the beach isn’t about getting kids to eat clams if they don’t care for them, but to try something different (this is way different than ordering clams off the menu at a restaurant). It’s an adventure. The point of the adventure is to have fun, learn about nature and cooking together and to get them to try the food in a casual way. My older kids loved Langdon’s dish. The younger ones tried it but then went back to the snacks. And that was just fine with me. Either way, it was an amazing experience.
Tell us what you actually look for when you're clamming on our local beaches.
Langdon: You look for the "show.” That's the hole in the sand made by the clam's siphon after it's retracted back beneath the surface. You just start digging test holes, finding a spot where no one has dug recently. Remember that beginners will want to take a clam gauge to test the size. If they're too small, they need to be thrown back. There's a 40 clam limit per day, per person. As a safety precaution, you always want to check first with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to make the beaches you're going to are open and safe.
Is there a particular age that's best for this kind of foraging?
Carolyn: My kids range in age from 3 to 12, so we really run the gamut. This activity was all inclusive. My three-year-old cruised his Thomas Tank Engine through the sand. The older kids loved digging and foraging for their limit of clams like a real treasure hunt. And my 12-year-old, who is really adventurous, dug for clams, but after a while, was looking to get Langdon out to the deeper parts for bigger game like geoducks.
There was a lot of camaraderie as we cooked. Everyone helped with the food prep and the cooking which made the meal all the more rewarding. We have a new video series on the ParentMap website called Forks in the Road. We go from start to finish with this project and families can see for themselves how to get the kids diving in!