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How One of the Ocean’s Largest — and Most Expensive — Shellfish Is Farmed

The giant clams known as geoducks can go for as much as $100 a plate

At Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington’s Puget Sound, fisherman can be found performing a seemingly odd ritual. One may stumble upon them stomping around on the sand, followed by a swift motion to dig their hands in to reveal an enormous — sometimes arm-length — snail-like creature. These are geoducks, a large and elusive burrowing clam species. The clams grow in few parts of the world, making them a highly coveted and expensive delicacy in seafood restaurants around the globe.

“Every single geoduck was harvested by somebody’s hand, as they were waist deep in mud pulling it up, so it’s a labor of love,” says Wes Taylor, the director of business development at Taylor Shellfish Farms.

Geoducks can often be the length of a forearm or larger, but they start out as snail-like creatures the size of a thumb. The Taylor Shellfish farmers plant thousands of baby geoducks, or “seeds,” in the sand, year-round during low tide, resulting in about 80 to 90,000 seeds per acre. They take great care to dig a small column and gently place two geoducks into each hole. They then leave them grow for six years. The resulting harvest is about 1 million pounds of geoduck per year.

“There’s no machinery at any stage of the game, so from our hatchery to the nursery to the beach to the processing plant, all of it is done by hand,” says Taylor.

Watch the full video to see how geoduck is cooked and prepared at Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar in Seattle.

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