We had the pleasure of spending a day with Hank Shaw, wild food guru and kitchen master. He's the guy behind Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the largest wild food information and recipe collection online to date. We met up in West Marin a few months back to forage Western or Pacific Littleneck Clams in Tomales Bay. We documented Hank doing his thing, foraging clams. Here's a bit of what I learned that day.
At low tide, the clammiest parts of the beach are uncovered making the tasty little buggers much more vulnerable to the likes of you - if you can find them. And that's a real if. You're likely going to a rocky beach, so don't get all summery and wear shorts, it's rough out there! You'll need a bucket or cooler, a shovel, a Fishing License and a ruler or measuring device. With the license, you're allowed to collect 50 clams per person and they all need to be at least 2 inches, hence the ruler. Clams hang out in seams which are like lines, but the lines are random and jagged and can go perpendicular to the water or parallel. The good news is that if/when you find one clam, you'll likely be able to dig around nearby and find more, then continue in that direction. If you find smaller ones that you can't keep, push them back into the sand under the rocks and leave them. Also, make sure you're covering your trail as you go, put the rocks back, leave the beach as it was when you arrived. After all the hard work, you'll be ready for a beer and a big clam feast! Good news is you can have the beer and you deserve it. Bad news is you can't have the clam feast until the following day. Cover the clams in ocean water overnight and leave them in the fridge. They'll naturally purge the sand and grit, making them much more pleasurable to eat. They'll be perfect and ready for eating or canning the following day so be ready. Saving them for later is not a good idea.
It was a long day and at the end of it Hank prepared dinner at chez nous in Bolinas. He's such a knowledgeable guy when it comes to wild food and he's generous with information. I wish I could transfer some of that knowledge into my brain. That, friends, is why UNFARMED has come to be. There is so much to learn in the way of wild food and forage-ables - what is available, how to harvest responsibly, and how to use wild finds.
Clams in Black Bean Sauce
The day after we clammed, the clams had purged and at the suggestion of my mom I wound up making this Chinese dish. I served it along with rice and some steamed baby bok choy that was seasoned with a little soy sauce. You can get fermented black beans and Shao Hsing rice cooking wine at the Asian supermarket. the black beans are shriveled kind of like raisins but they smell really strong and are super salty. They bring a really nice flavor to the dish but it doesn't take much - a little goes a long way.
2 dozen littleneck clams
2 tbsp. fermented black beans
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 tbsp. Shao Hsing rice cooking wine
1 scallion, finely chopped
Wash clams in cold water, scrub them to remove grit. Rinse the black beans in cold water and drain. In a small bowl, mash the black beans with the back of a spoon. Heat wok or skillet over high heat until hot then add 1 tbsp. oil, ginger and garlic, stir fry for 30 seconds. Add 2 tbsp. oil, beans and clams. Stir fry until clams begin to open. Add broth and rice wine then cover. Remove clams as they open. Garnish with scallions.