Razor Clams

Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest

David Berger

  • Published: 2017. Paperback January 2019
  • Subject Listing: Nature and Environment; Environmental Studies; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 60 bandw illus., 5.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In this lively history and celebration of the Pacific razor clam, David Berger shares with us his love affair with the glossy, gold-colored Siliqua patula and gets into the nitty-gritty of how to dig, clean, and cook them using his favorite recipes. In the course of his investigation, Berger brings to light the long history of razor clamming as a subsistence, commercial, and recreational activity, and shows the ways it has helped shape both the identity and the psyche of the Pacific Northwest.

Towing his wife along to the Long Beach razor clam festival, Berger quizzes local experts on the pressing question: tube or gun? He illuminates the science behind the perplexing rules and restrictions that seek to keep the razor clam population healthy and the biomechanics that make these delicious bivalves so challenging to catch. And he joyfully takes part in the sometimes freezing cold pursuit that nonetheless attracts tens of thousands of participants each year for an iconic "beach-to-table" experience.

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David Berger has been a contributor to the food feature "Northwest Taste" in the Pacific Magazine and is former art critic for the Seattle Times. He is a recipient of a Metcalf Fellowship for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

"With his history and experience, Berger brings the sand, the wet, and the cold that embody razor clamming. His delivery is in sync with the quirks of this odd sport where you drive to a beach, park your car, open the door, grab your 'gun,' and harvest seafood-just like that."
-Dean Adams, author of Four Thousand Hooks: A True Story of Fishing and Coming of Age on the High Seas of Alaska

"The author provides information I didn't know and I've been digging razor clams for fifty years."
-Greg Johnston, author of Washington's Pacific Coast: A Guide to Hiking, Camping, Fishing and Other Adventures

"Sport clamming may sound like an oxymoron until you read David Berger's captivating account of this weird and wonderful activity."
-Nicholas O'Connell, founder of

"Whether you grab fresh razor clams at the fish counter or with a quick shovel at low tide, this book will take you delightfully, deliciously deep into the food culture, ecology, and local history of our 'buried treasures.'"
-Tom Douglas, Northwest chef and restaurateur

"David Berger has written an ode not only to sea and sky and the Pacific Northwest's most wily clam, but to the delights of this wet gray world we are so lucky to inhabit. Berger takes you away to the salt air and reflection of clouds on wet sand, the perfume of melting butter and frying clams, the invitation of a clam's subtle show dimpling the beach. Whether it is a recipe for razor clam fritters you seek or refreshment for the soul, Razor Clams delivers. A must read for Pacific Northwest newcomers and barnacled long timers alike, Razor Clams offers delight on every page."
-Lynda Mapes, author of Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak

Chapter One Introductions
Chapter Two Lay of the Land: Long Beach and Ocean Shores
Chapter Three Sacred Treaties
Chapter Four Ecology and Anatomy
Chapter Five Past Abundances
Chapter Six The Era of NIX and Domoic Acid
Chapter Seven Pumping and Counting
Chapter Eight Licensed to Carry
Chapter Nine Eating Them, After All, Is the Point
Chapter Ten Will's First Clam
CODA Practical Matters and One Speculation
Appendix One Washington State Razor Clam
Personal Use Regulations, 1929-2015
Appendix Two Recreational Razor Clam License
Information in Washington, 1982-1993 List of Recipes
Selected Bibliography

"Clamming fans can pique their interest with this volume, which details the science and history surrounding the species."
-Alaska Dispatch News

"An entertaining account, and guide, to the real fun of digging your own food in the beach. . . . Berger's book is an excellent testimony that gathering is still an enriching, fun and tasty pursuit. Long may it be so."
-Matthew L. Miller, Cool Green Science