EASTHAM – With a full bucket of quahogs already in tow, a half mile out on the tidal flats of First Encounter Beach, Richard Bolles of Dennis explained, “It’s the challenge of the hunt.”
His wife, Karen Bolles, said, “It’s just nice to be outside.”
And their son, Michael Bolles of Westfield, when asked about the attraction of clamming, simply looked around at the extraordinary vista from a half mile out through a tidal flat as if to say, Look around.
Way out here, the Bolles family was now looking for razor clams – the two-inch long narrow clams that burrow under the sand with a “foot” that can quickly reach out and then pull the shell deep into the sand, explained Karen Bolles.
As they dug, they attracted an audience and quickly some students. “I’m digging for razor clams,” said Daniel Rogers, 9, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Daniel met the Bolles family out on the flat and decided that their hobby looked fun even though he wouldn’t eat the clams. “I’m going to give whatever I get to them,” he said. “I’m a vegetarian. I really like animals.”
Daniel’s father, Alex Rogers, said the family was staying in Wellfleet. He was helping to dig for razor clams. “It never occurred to me until I saw them doing it. I learned when he (Daniel) learned.
Michael Bolles explained that razor clams are delicious. “They taste like hazel nut. They are a little sweeter than a steamer,” he said.
But, explained Richard Bolles, they are hard to dig. “Some of the old timers use a salt solution and squirt it into the ground causing the razor clam to come up. I’ve tried it. I’ve never had any luck,” he said.
And while they had a bucket full of clams, Karen Bolles said, “Every year they are getting scarcer and scarcer.”
Richard Bolles said, “About 60 years ago, I used to come out here with my father and there’s a creek over there. We barely had to walk out. The steamers were so thick you were digging them out with both hands. Just handfuls.”
Although the harvest of steamers has lessened, the labor intensive razor clams – virtually digging with your hands – are still out there and delicious if you can find them, said Bolles.
As for the clams, Richard Bolles said, “The bigger ones become chowder. They are tough, we have to cut them up.”
As for the smaller clams, he said, “We make clams casino with a little garlic, bacon, cheddar cheese and olive oil.”
— Brian Tarcy