Learning about our food - the seashore to plate challenge
The seashore to plate challenge is intended to help kids learn about where food is harvested, and how food is processed before we see it in the grocery store. It is a pretty simple project that can be done over the course of a single day in three steps:
- Dig up clams
- Gut your clams
- Fry up your clams
1. Dig up your clams.
Digging clams is a fun activity that helps kids learn where clams live as well as their role in the ocean. Since we are planning on gutting and eating our clams you will want to make sure that the clams you dig up are edible, in that they are not toxic. Clams are the oceans filters, so if you harvest near toxic dump sites or areas that had recent sewage spills, you will get sick. You will need to find a local shellfish safety map like this one for Washington State.
You will also need to know your local rules and regulations for harvesting clams. Do you need a license? How many can you harvest? How large do they need to be?
We like to skip the rakes when digging up clams and instead build ourselves a big hole, drained by a series of channels. This is a ton of fun for the kids to work with and helps our clam hole stay clear of water. It also makes a wall around the hole that allows kids to peer into what is under the sand. Laws in your area may vary, but WA law requires you to fill in any holes you may have dug up during the harvesting process. Why? To help save the exposed clams from local predators. The ocean doesn’t fill in those holes as quickly as you might think.
2. Gut your clams
The clams you found in the sand are likely larger clams, not the small “steamer” clams you find with a plate of spaghetti. You will want to gut these larger clams, trust me. We didn’t do this and steamed the larger clams once – it did not go over well with anyone in our family. Too many guts and too much gore on that scale.
Since you have a bucket full of clams you can use this as a cheap and easy dissection project. If you’re interested head on over to our clam dissection blog post.
If you just want to eat them up you will need to gut the clams first. To open the clams you need to cut the muscles that hole the clamshells together. These are located near the dorsal, or hinge of the clam. Using a flexible small knife like an oyster knife you will want to slide the knife along the shell and slice this muscle. There are two muscles that attach to each side of the clam, so you will need to make four cuts for this.
Once the clam is open you need to find the good meat. For fried clams, you can use the mantle (the wavy muscle that sticks out like lips when the clam was alive), the siphon, the adductor muscles, and the foot.
To clean the siphon cut up each tube and wash out any sand. Similarly, wash out any sand found in the mantle. The foot is the pink muscle on the bottom of the visceral mass, a large marble sized pouch that contains the internal organs. The adductor muscles are pink round muscles and are the ones you cut to open the shell. There should be two of them. Keep your clam meat on ice until you fry it up.
3. Fry up your clams
Now comes the tasty part! Before you proceed, make sure you have rinsed all of the clam meat you will be using to make sure it is free of sand! We used this recipe from Genius Kitchen to make our fried clams:
1 egg, separated
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
cleaned clam meat
Warm frying oil to 375 degrees.
In a medium sized bowl mix the milk, egg yolk (we are saving the egg white for later), butter, and salt.
Mix in flour until smooth.
In a small clean bowl beat the egg white until soft peaks form.
Fold the egg white into the batter. This will give your fried batter a nice fluffy texture with a delicious crunch.
Dip clam pieces into the batter and fry for ~45 seconds per side. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Eat fresh with tartar sauce!
Things to think about in the seafood to plate challenge
Why do we process our foods?
How does supermarket food look different from harvested food?
Who cleans and packages the food we eat regularly?
Can all types of food be harvested?