The deep sea is home to many creatures that would put aliens in a sci-fi movie to shame. One of these creatures is the geoduck of the Northwest coastal U.S. This harmless-looking mollusc has earned a reputation because of how it looks and how it tastes but little is known about it by the general public. Keep reading to find out more.
What is a geoduck?
Pronounced “gooey duck,” this animal does not look like a duck. The name was coined by the Nisqually, a Native American tribe located in western Washington, and it is said to mean “dig deep,” a nod to the bivalve’s burrowing ability.
It was written as “gweduc” and Europeans later reinterpreted the native spelling and pronunciation. Geoduck is essentially a large clam with a rudimentary anatomy.
There are major components: the siphon or neck, which extends to the outside of the shell, and the mantle, that meaty part protected within the shell. The geoduck is native to the Pacific Northwest and Western Canadian coast.
They anchor themselves into the ground with a small « foot, » and will usually remain in one spot for their whole lives. It survives by sucking in seawater, filtering it for plankton and precious vitamins, and then squirting out the excess via its siphon.
They are known as the world’s largest burrowing clam and typical samples weigh between two to three pounds. It is too big to curl back into its shell like other molluscs; instead, the neck hangs outside.
An interesting way to know you’ve found one is when you find two of its siphon holes peeping out of the ground.
What does geoduck taste like?
Geoduck has sweet meat. Seattle-based chef Ethan Stowell who features geoduck seasonally at Goldfinch and How to Cook a Wolf said: « It’s definitely unique to the Northwest, and I think we should be proud of it. It’s a raw clam, and it’s as sweet as it gets for something that comes from the ocean. »
The geoduck has also been praised for its distinctly delicate yet crunchy texture. In China, it is heralded as an aphrodisiac. Some just think it is because it is impossible to see the geoduck and not remember a phallus.
The geoduck is highly sought after and always goes for a high price on the market. « When you put it pound for pound, it’s three times as expensive as foie gras, » Stowell says. « It’s definitely a specialty item. »
The geoduck is now scarce in the US however in the Pacific Northwest, it is loved by many and even adored. In fact, Evergreen State College in Olympia has a geoduck as its mascot.