• Varnish Clam

    February 24, 2010

    Purple varnish clams, aka mahogany clams or Nuttalia obscurata, are yet another transplant from Asia. About two decades ago they were introduced to the West Coast from ship’s ballast waters.


    Varnish clams are bimodal benthic feeders, which is a fancy way of saying they can filter food out of the sand and eat whenever they please. Other clams have to wait until the tide is in to feed.

    It took us a while to figure out these clams… they’re certainly a different kind of critter. For one thing, they flash open when you cook them… so while it might take a manila 6 to 8 minutes to open up in a steamer, a varnish clam will open immediately. Depending on how you like your clams cooked, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing…. they certainly aren’t fully cooked when they open. Also: it’s taken us quite a while to figure out how to “purge” varnish clams. Because they’re bimodal feeders, they often have more sand in them than regular steamers, so we have to leave them in our tanks to “spit” an extra long time. Finally, texture-wise these clams are more like a mussel than a steamer. We’ve often thought that steamer clams and mussels are misnamed… swapped at birth perhaps… because mussels are soft and steamer clams are muscle-y. But varnish clams have a softer texture than our regular steamers, so they’re more on the mussel contingent of muscle.

    Lastly: expect hitchhikers. For some reason, varnish clams are often carrying little pea crab. Once we even found a clam with a crab AND a baby mussel inside…. kind of like an accidental shellfish turducken. Clarabsel?



    Varnish clams have truly spectacular shells, so we’ve also started making earrings out of them:

    Maybe we would have sold more of these earrings if the photo had been in focus? Hard to tell.

    Last thing about varnish clams: one time, while out on the flats digging clams for earring production, a family approached and asked what we were doing. We explained that the clams were bright purple inside and very beautiful and that we were going to use them for jewelry. To prove our point, we stepped on a clam, breaking it into pieces. But surprise! The clam was bright white inside. It was the first albino varnish clam we’d ever found, and we’d smashed it.


    2010 Spring Open Farm Days

    February 17, 2010

    Come explore the oyster farm! We’ll be opening up the flats for u-pick oysters (plus u-find mussels, u-dig clams, and u-spot sea cucumbers, sea urchins, moon snails, etc) on March 20th from 1 to 3, April 17th from noon to 3, and May 15th from 11 to 2. Bring boots, buckets, raingear if necessary, and picnic supplies, and email us at orders@hamahamastore.com if you’re planning on attending.

    If you want to stay on the Canal and make a weekend of it let us know and we can recommend hotels, vacation rentals, and other things to do.

    See photos from last year’s Open Farm Days here and here.


    More details to come!


    Attack of the Algae Eaters!

    February 12, 2010

    There used to be only a few of these little critters on the beach, now there are thousands. They’re very, very sociable, and like to congregate on muddy sections of beach. We didn’t know what to call them, but someone came up with the term algae eaters, and it stuck. Unicorn horn shell was in […]

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    Hama Hama Valentine

    February 9, 2010

    Oysters are legendary aphrodisiacs, and Casanova reportedly began each day with  a couple dozen raw ones. Now, we would just write these statements off as old wives’ tales propagated by oyster farmers around Valentine’s Day, except that scientists have proven us wrong. It turns out that that raw oysters actually do stimulate the release of […]

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    Daylight Low Tides Smell So Good

    February 8, 2010

    Friday both the tide and the sun were out during the day, and it was marvelous.

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    Please Be Coy

    February 5, 2010

    Coyotes. So much less scary than these guys:

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    Horn, tooted.

    February 1, 2010

    From the blog Food, She Thought: I worship the oyster, but a creamy oyster grosses me out. Hamas, in my opinion, are beautiful bivalve perfection. Good for eating raw, yet substantial enough for cooking. Hama Hama Oyster with Lemon Foam

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