|Three Generations on the Clam Flats and having Fun!
While clamming isn’t inherently difficult, there are several things potential “clammers” should know about digging clams. Of most importance, is that individuals secure the necessary license. Clam licenses can be obtained at local town offices, as well information on where to dig and if certain flats are closed due to “Red Tide”, an algal bloom, which causes sickness and even death if stricken shellfish are consumed. Clams are dug on a falling tide, during low tide or at the early stages of the incoming tide. “Clammers” should use care not to overextend their digging as the tide rises fast and can quickly overwhelm those not paying attention. Flats are best explored with rubber boots and clothing that one doesn’t mind getting covered in mud. Many find thick rubber gloves also helpful, to avoid cuts from broken clam shells. Finding clams is simply a matter of slowly walking the flats, looking for holes. Once a hole is located, they become easier and easier to find as one teachers their eyes what to look for. To extract the clam, slide a four-tined spading fork down into the mud about a foot and 5-6 inches in back of the hole. Gently tip back on the fork, prying up the mud and clam. Often, the clam will squirt out seawater from the hole as it tries to escape. Expert clammers use a specialty designed clam rake that makes harvesting much easier, so if planning to make clamming a regular activity, a rake is well worth the investment.
Legally, clams must be 2 inches long to keep and any with broken shells should be thrown away. Collected clams should be thoroughly rinsed in saltwater to eliminate as much grit as possible. Cook clams by steaming in a large pot till their shell pop open. Once cooled, clams can be easily separated from their shells, rinsed in broth, dipped in REAL butter and devoured! While Down East has many fine spots to dig for clams, one of my favorite is Cobscook Bay State Park (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, B-2).
Access to the mudflats is easy and no clam license is required there OR in any of Maine’s state parks! Also, check in at the park office as they frequently have a few clam rakes and baskets available for borrowing.
Known by the names wild goose tongues, seaside plantains, or Plantago maritima this seaside wild edible exists as the perfect accompaniment to steamed clams. Goose tongues posses a rich salty flavor, reminiscent of spinach and can be eaten raw in salads or boiled and enjoyed with butter and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar. Once identified, large patches of this herbaceous perennial can be easily found growing at the top of the intertidal zone. While some prefer to harvest Goose Tongues using a knife or scissors, they can also easily be harvested by hand, and are yet another fun and educational summer seaside activity to be readily enjoyed by young and old alike. Goose tongue grows practically everywhere in coastal Washington County and is rarely if ever harvested, something that particularly shocks me given their sublime flavor.
Huge patches of this edible can therefore be found growing wild all along the Down East shoreline from Lubec (Map 27, A-4) to Culter (Map 27, D-1). A Short Hike with Impressive Views Trimble Mountain (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, D-2) boasts impressive views of the St. Croix River Valley and is a great spot for hikers. Travel Route 1 South past the Calais/Robinston line. In approximately 1.5 miles, turn right onto the Number 3 (Brewer Road) road (if you pass the Redcliff Restaurant on the left, you have gone too far). Take a right at the fork and go about half a mile and then turn right onto the McNeil road. Drive straight ahead till you reach a sizeable parking lot. The last quarter mile to the summit is barely passable with a four-wheel drive vehicle and should be hiked. Trimble Mountain is privately owned and maintained, so visitors are asked to be extremely respectful and pack out all garbage, this will ensure continued access so the area and continued enjoyment by future generations.