Digging deep into the stalled geoduck trade
If ever a seafood could be called special, it would be geoduck (pronounced, “gooey duck”). The elongated giant clam is a rumored aphrodisiac, Northwest icon and reality TV star (appearing on “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” “Bizarre Foods,” “Top Chef,” “Dirty Jobs” and “Chopped,” to name a few). It’s also a highly prized hotpot delicacy in China, where consumers pay top dollar for the species that is now the subject of a controversial ban of West Coast shellfish.
Geoducks are local legends on Puget Sound. Josh Green remembers going out for geoducks while growing up on Washington’s Vashon Island. He and his father would take their shovels out at midnight to look for the telltale bubbling in the sand indicating a siphon. Then it was time to “dig deep” — which is the meaning of the Nisqually American Indian word, “gweduc” — to reach the rest of the clam, about 3 feet below.
Green now believes part of his father’s intention was to wear him out with all the digging. No matter. “It was always so much fun,” he says. “We’d take it home and clean it, and fry it up for lunch the next day. We were loving it.”
Green, who is chef for the Ballard Annex Oyster House in Seattle, has cooked geoducks in a variety of ways over the years. He sources from Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Wash., which he began working with about eight years ago, and credits for its careful handling of the animals that allows them to be brought in live.