Geoduck Clams

(Panopea abrupta): FARM RAISED

QUITE POSSIBLY THE most peculiar shellfish on earth, Geoduck clams are gigantic Pacific saltwater clams that are simply shocking in appearance. Bearing a shell some eight inches long, geoducks (pronounced “gooey-ducks”) are distinctly recognized by their enormously disproportionate ‘neck’ that can protrude up to three feet in length or more and weigh several pounds. Most commercially sold geoducks average around 2 pound.

The largest of all American clams – and the largest burrowing clam in the world, geoduck clams are indigenous to the Pacific Coast, in greatest numbers off Washington State and British Columbia, Canada. They are found in the wild as far south as California and as far north as Alaska. Their name is from the Nisqually Indian term ‘gwe-duck,’ which means ‘to dig deep.’ Indeed, they are adept diggers and have been known to survive for more than 100 years within the confines of sandy beaches. Its neck acts as a siphon that pumps hundreds of gallons of water a day through its digestive system. It is this siphon that is primarily used for culinary applications, although some Asian recipes will utilize dried body meat in soups and some will fry or steam the body meat.

The harvest for geoducks is truly for the stout of heart, often requiring more than one person to extract it from the sand: one to seize the neck and the other to do the digging. Farmed in tidal flats buried several feet deep, they often expose the very tips of their necks and squirt water like little fountains, telltale signs for geoduck hunters. A wild harvest also exists that generally uses divers to locate and extract them. These divers often employ the aid of ‘stingers,’ or water jets, that help to loosen the bed of wet sand surrounding the clam.

Geoducks are extremely popular in Asia, where they are known as ‘Elephant Trunk Clams.’ They are sweet in flavor and taste of the sea, with an almost crunchy texture that needs very little cooking to enhance the flavor. Over cooking can quickly ruin the texture by toughening the meat and it is generally recommended to only prepare the cleaned meat with a quick blanch or fast stir fry. However, Geoduck is coveted for sushi, sashimi, or ceviche and is generally sold alive. The siphon is cut from the shucked body then placed quickly in hot water to loosen the tough outer skin. Once the skin is removed, the cream colored neck meat is split and shaved into thin slices and served raw.

Harvest Region: Harvested in Puget Sound, Washington

Seasonality: Farmed Year Round

Yield: About  33% – The Siphon of the clam is the preferred meat

Flavor Profile: Sweet, Mild

Texture Profile: Firm, Crunchy

Substitute:

  • Abalone
  • Other Clam Species

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