Sunday, July 29, 2012

Foraging Two-Step

This weekend, Wendy and I took a couple of steps forward with our foraging.  It is something I have been interested in for some time, and believe it is an important part of my MooseBoots travels.  In fact, Wendy's next book is about our adventures stepping up our foraging game.  Additionally, Wendy is giving a talk about our learning at the Mother Earth News Fair in PA in September.

This fantastic weekend began like any other ... groceries, trip to the feed store, etc.  But along the way, we got it into our head to go clamming.  Neither Wendy nor I have ever been, so I made a call, or two, to a friend who digs for clams.  Then, we headed out.  We chose our spot - a location we had visited a few years ago while geocaching.  At the time, the girls were a bit younger and getting stuck in the mud on the clam flats was terrifying for them and terribly funny for us.  This time, we knew what to expect.  We also opted out of any equipment, except for a stick.  I figured that the indigenous people in this area did not have expensive clamming forks, so we should be OK.

Strolling casually, looking for the tell tale "bubbling holes", we searched.  First, we noted that the sand was making a popping noise like breakfast cereal.  So, we stopped and decided to dig.  Wendy took a couple of tries with the stick, but broke it twice.  Well, sticks are out.  We dug into the sand with our bare hands.  At first, we noticed that the hole was much deeper than the anticipated 2-6 inches.  Then, we stopped and looked around ... we were standing on a hill in the middle of the clam flats (Lesson 1).  Clever us, we moved to another "crackling sand" area nearer the level of the low tide waters and resumed the dig.

Now, digging in the clam flats with your bare hands is difficult, to say the least, and brutal, to be completely honest.  And yet, we dug.  Soon, we filled the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket.  OK, it was more like 2 hours.  In the mean time, all of the girls had wandered off further and further, discovering interesting things like dead fish.  We called the girls back and went to the tidal river to rinse the sand off of the clams.  I caught some water and swished it all around in the bucket and then poured the sandy water out.  After doing this a few times, I noticed that there were a bunch of half shells in the bucket.  How did those get in there?  We continued after removing the half shells.  A few minutes later, I looked into the bucket.  We were down to a half dozen or so left.  I reached in and inspected all of the remaining "clams" and was introduced to "mud clams."  A mud clam, as it turns out, is a dead clam shell that is filled with ... you guessed it ... mud (Lesson 2).  After removing these, we were left with 4 clams, which weighed in at a whopping 0.5 pounds, and battered fingers.  I guess that is why people who clam use the new-fangled tools (Lesson 3).

Unabashed, we left with our haul.  As we wandered back, we stopped to catch frogs in the pond.  Wendy also wanted to gather some cattails to eat.  As she was handing the knife to Little Fire Faery, they noticed a cool "snake-like thing" in the water.  Upon closer inspection, we all decided it was a 3-inch long leech.  Little Fire Faery decided she was finished wading in the pond.  After a quick picture, we continued back to the truck, noticing again, as we did on the way on, that the blackberries are starting to ripen for the season.  We vowed a return.  Once home, Wendy made the clams into a bit more than a pint of clam chowder.

This morning, Wendy and I got up to go on a mushroom walk with a local mycologist.  The light rain did nothing to dissuade us from going.  We visited a nearby area we had never been to and did the walk.  We, as a group, were able to find some young chanterelles.  But try as we might, we could not find any black trumpet mushrooms.  It is still early in the season for mushrooms in our area, with a peak in September or so.  Wendy and I are fairly new with mushrooms and still have a lot to learn.  We will probably need to pick up, and read the book recommendations: Fascinating Fungi of New England and Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms. Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada, which we have, was also recommended and will demand a good thorough reading, as well.

As with everything else, we decided that there is some much more to learn.  I guess that is the nature of life.  Regardless, it was a fantastic weekend.  The crowning moment was a friend, who was returning from a trip to her family home for the weekend, delivering live lobster, mead, and "Downeast Whelks."  I am not fond of seafood, but will try the whelks (shelled snails) and will most definitely partake of the mead.

I lead such a charmed life.  I feel I am truly blessed by the people, places, and experiences that have been given to me on this MooseBoots journey.  I, again, find myself humbled and grateful.


  1. Fascinating as always! Thanks for sharing what you learned. :) Sounds like a wonderful day for everyone... well, maybe not for the clams. heh heh

  2. Melonie, thank you. It is my pleasure to share our fun. It was a wonderful weekend.

  3. I LOVE clamming! Dimples is what we called what you call bubbling holes. And we only ever just used regular garden shovels. No fancy clam forks or clam guns/tubes. Trick was to tread lightly so the pressure of your weight didn't tip them off that you were there. Aim the tip of your shovel 4 to 5 inches in front of the dimple (towards the ocean). Quickly shovel one scoop of sand out and then get down on all fours and dig for that sucker with your hand in a sort of drilling motion.
    Oh the thrill! LOVE IT! It's not unusual to be up to your elbow or shoulder trying to pull out a clam.
    Oddly enough, as much as I enjoy clamming, I can't stand the taste of them. Ha ha!

  4. Kaye, your approach seems a bit less strenuous. We may have to try that. By the way, I don't eat clams either ... they are for Wendy.

  5. Awesome! That looks like so much fun too. You really should eat them though. Clam chowder is the best!

  6. Leigh, it was a blast! I will try them ... my motto is, "I'll try anything once, when it comes to food."

  7. I agree! My husband and I are food connoisseurs of a sort. We enjoy eating new things but the key to this is eating it a few different ways. I hated duck until I had braised duck.... now I love it. I think you should try it at least 3 times. ;-)


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