TRY THIS: Growing in the wild and on farms, oysters are another draw for people to visit the Hood Canal area in the PNW. Festivals — like OysterFest and Oyster Rama — celebrate the local delicacy, but there’s no need to wait to take a drive out to experience them.
HOW TO TRY IT: Depending how hands-on you want to get, there are a number of ways to enjoy the shellfish in Hood Canal. Here are a few of your options:
Picking up at the store: As you’re heading out to the Hood Canal area or making your way back home, Taylor Shellfish Farms has a farm store in Shelton where you can pick up just-harvested oysters, mussels, clams, and geoduck. Its website also offers recipes and instructions on how to prepare your shellfish goods, including a step-by-step video on how to process a fresh geoduck.
The fifth-generation family farm, Hama Hama in Lilliwaup, offers visitors a mixture of farm tours, an on-site restaurant, and a jam-packed calendar of live music during the summer. The venue’s popular and highly-recommended Oyster Saloon has rustic picnic tables with a water view, which help set the outdoorsy vibe and are an instant reminder that you’re outside the city.
Harvesting at the beach: Bring a pair of gloves, a shucking knife, and a zip-lock storage bag to take your bounty back to your campsite or hotel (unless you plan on enjoying them shore-side). Return the discarded shells to the beach if you can, as there are often tiny oysters attached to harvest-sized adults, and the shells provide the best environment for juvenile oysters to grow.
A couple of things to note:
- If you go the DIY route, you must purchase a shellfish license before you start searching. They can be found in any local store or gas station in the area and can be purchased for a day, multiple days, or as an annual pass.
- Check the state’s shellfish safety map before you start digging. The Department of Health monitors different toxin levels and updates the info daily.
- Here’s a PDF list of over 35 popular public beaches in Washington for shellfish harvesting and their in-season dates.
- Here’s a couple of additional tips from Andrew Elizaga:
MOST SURPRISING FACT: There are only five species of oysters cultivated in the U.S. Where they live, the water they filter, and how they’re handled helps brings unique flavor to each of the species. For a deep dive into the five types of oysters you’ll come across in the Pacific Northwest, check out this Seattle Met article.