Razor Clams Via Sparks 68

While walking Mac The Collie on Gress beach at low tide last week I kept seeing the tell tale signs of Razor clams (or Spoots as Orcadians call them) and wished I had a tub of salt to hand. For most of the year the razorfish lie in sandy shellfish beds below the tideline, but with the spring tides the sea goes out so far that for an hour or two the stretches of “spoot beds” are uncovered. The northern climate being what it is, conditions of weather and tide combining to make this endevour possible add up to no more than 20 or 30 hours in a year.

If you don’t fancy gathering your own then a fishmonger usually has them in elastic band bundles. I like to add a little olive oil to a very hot pan and put clams hinge side down. Once opened turn quickly, not long as they will go rubbery, then out and serve with olive oil, lemon and parsley. Easy.

With the possible exception of finding a truffle there is no foraging experience quite like that of catching a razor-clam, and there is certainly none so addictive! I frequently take people on razor clam hunting expeditions and they always have to be dragged away before they remove every last clam from the seabed.

Even truffles do not rise out of the ground of their own accord (if only). Yet this is precisely what razor-clams will do if you use the correct technique and (this is the hard part) you know where to find them. If you find a spot where they live (usually a sheltered sandy beach) you will need a good low tide and, preferably, a flat calm day. If the tide is really low then the little “keyholes” in the sand that betray the creature’s presence will be visible out of the water, otherwise you will have to wade out knee deep and peer through the rippling surface of the water to spot your prey (polarising sunglasses help!).

Walk about very slowly and tread lightly as they will dig deep if they feel you coming. When you find a keyhole gently lay some salt from one of those plastic tubs onto the hole and wait. After about 20 seconds, and if all is well, your clam will rise majestically and amazingly from the sand. Grip the edge of the shell and hold on tight, gently easing it out of its sandy burrow in between its desperate, pulsating attempts to regain a foothold. Soon you will be holding a gloopy, forlorn, but very tasty clam in you hand. I always feel sorry for the poor things – but I get over it.

Maybe see you on the beach,

John Wright

Click on for a wee film of John Wright Hunting Razor Clams from River Cottage on Vimeo.