Sure, you can buy clams in the shell at the market. But those clams, while perfectly fine, barely hint at the rich oceanic flavor of the razor clam, one of the West’s premier shellfish—and one that’s at its best when you dig it up yourself. Razor clams—so called because they look very much like old-fashioned straight razors—live on sandy, storm-tossed ocean beaches from Alaska to California, and are especially loved in Washington, where clammers head to the coast during open season (a weekend per month, from fall into spring). To catch them, go out at low tide and look for the “show,” a quarter-size dimple in the sand. Then plunge a tube-shaped clam gun into the dimple and quickly pull it out, capturing (you hope) the clam in the plug of sand inside the gun.
Ready to give it a try? Go to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to learn more, find a good location, and get a license. Or take a class with author and forager Langdon Cook. As for the eating part, you can’t do better than beer-battered razor clams.