Have you ever seen a clam mate? Me neither. But when I was in Wellfleet this week, a town in Cape Cod renowned for its clams, I spotted a poster that explained the process. The male clams spit out sperm, and the female spew eggs. The eggs fertilize in the sway of the current and plant themselves in the sand. In about 3 years they grow to about 2 inches in diameter. In the warm, briny waters of Wellfleet Harbor, they develop a sweet, salty flavor.
The clam “farmers” take a more systematic approach to raising clams. They buy clam “seeds” by the millions. The seeds are smaller than a pinky nail. So they don’t get lost at sea, they are caged in a mesh box.At low tide, the boxes are laid out on the sandy, harbor floor. At high tide, they are submerged. Same view of Pat's Clam bed -- on the left at high tide, or the right at low tide.
After a year, they are large enough to be transferred to the larger sand beds.
At low tide, the shores of Wellfleet harbor are dotted with trucks and clam farmers. In addition to raking up a daily yield to sell to local restaurants and fish markets, they are managing their beds. When beds are emptied of mature clams, they are raked clean of stray shells. Young clams are ready to be set. The rows are strategically lined so that they can drive their trucks between them and efficiently transfer the daily catch.
Pat Woodbury’s beds are on the east side of the harbor. Though most Wellfleet natives aren’t familiar with him, he’s famous in Boston for supplying the James Beard Award Winning restaurants: Summer Shack, Rialto and East Coast Grill, as well as many others.
On the north side is Michael (whose last name escapes me). He supplies his mom’s restaurant, The Bookstore and Restaurant, in the center of town. At lunch, you can order his clams just hours after they were plucked from the waters.
Michael also let me dig some clams to cook at home. I prepared the classic...
Italian Pasta with Clams, White Wine and Garlic4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
2 dozen Wellfleet clams, washed.
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp. dried hot chili flakes (optional)
2 tbs. brandy
1 lb. linguine or fusilli
1 tbs. grated parmesan
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
2. In a separate skillet, heat 3 tbs. olive oil with garlic and chili flakes, cook for about 2 mintues or until garlic starts to lightly brown. Add the clams, and toss to coat in garlic. Cook, covered for 2 minutes.
3. Add wine and brandy to the clams, and cook, uncovered until the clams begin to open. Add half the parsley.
4. Toss pasta with clams and add the remaining olive oil and cheese. Garnish with remaining parsley.