The geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”) is no duck, nor is it particularly gooey. It’s the world’s largest burrowing clam, and it resides only in the coastal waters around Washington State and British Columbia. Despite the geoduck’s likeness to the “wrinkled schlong of a deformed hippopotamus,” locals consider these hulking mollusks a prized asset to uniquely Washingtonian culture and cuisine.
By weight, geoduck is worth more than foie gras. Many characterize it as the ideal seafood: The meat is sweet and briny (without being fishy) and has a clean, snappy bite that’s much crisper than other clams. Farms export much of their live geoduck to upscale restaurants in Asia, but the remaining supply is prepared by area establishments. Chefs serve the animal both cooked and raw, often thinly sliced alongside flavorful garnishes.
The area’s Native American Salish tribes gave the clam its name, which derives from gweduc, meaning “dig deep” in the Lushootseed language. As the geoduck grows, it uses its tiny foot to burrow into the seafloor, leaving only its neck above ground. There, it can catch microscopic organisms, spurt water and eggs, and live for more than 150 years. That’s long enough for scientists to observe signs of climate change on the creatures’ shells.
The giant clam also inspired Evergreen State, a college in Olympia, Washington, to choose the geoduck as their mascot. Each year, students proudly chant the school’s fight song, which includes the lyrics: “Siphon high, squirt it out, swivel all about, let it all hang out!” The geoduck may be a bit of a joke, but it’s still a delicacy. And for both of those reasons, it remains widely beloved.
Where to Try It
Taylor Shellfish Farms2182 Chuckanut Drive, Bow, Washington, 98232, United States
This seaside establishment sells their oysters, geoduck, and more fresh off the boat. You can use their shucking knives to ravage your bounty at the picnic tables outside.