Fall is beautiful in Brittany. The light is quite incredible. There is always something to do and one thing I love is walking along the sandy beaches on the Atlantic coast in search of the knife shaped clams we call kountellec in Breton or couteau.
A bivalve mollusc, the razor shell clam can be found from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Sea but also along the Pacific coast from California to Alaska. It eats phytoplankton. A foot like a muscle allows the clam to sink into the sand, vertically, 50 centimeters to one meter deep, living in a colony in the sand. The best time to harvest the clams is September through December, and when the tide is above a 70 coefficient.
A classic bait for fishing, razor shell clams can be used all year around. Recreational digging is truly a family sport and one that can be enjoyed by everyone. All you need is a basket to put your catch in and salt!
Here is how to catch these sharp looking clams:
- First, look for a clam show or two holes in the sand in a shape of an eight.
- Pour salt over the hole. The clam notices the increase in the salinity level in its environment and thinks that the sea is back. After a few minutes, the sell rises to the surface, his head first.
- Catch it quickly but carefully. Rings appear first. They have a defensive system that snap easily, leaving you empty handed! Also, razor clams dig quickly. A shovel will be of no help.
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Razor shell clams can be prepared in different ways:
- First let the freshly caught clams disgorge in salted water for one hour. Clean the shells thoroughly two or three times afterwards.
- Enjoy them raw with salt and lemon juice.
- They are delicious just grilled on a flattop grill or simmered in a hot pot with butter and parsley, a few minutes until they open.
- Cooking razor shell clams can be tricky. Overbaked, they become rubbery and tough. They should be firm and juicy in the mouth.
- One last tip: don’t add salt!
So put on your rubber boots! Head for the first beach! and don’t forget your salt…