These are cold, windy days on the east Cotentin. Nick is spending a lot of time in the Bois de Rabelais where he and fellow woodsmen have felled an ancient beech and are busy logging it. Dede l’Accroche is a willing helper. He of the fungus forays, prawning pursuits, razor-clam raids. When we arrived in St Vaast we found a yellow plastic bag hanging on our front door handle. A gift of some couteaux from Dede.
Two days ago Nick and I braved a squall, with wind-driven rain pricking our faces, to go digging with Dede for couteaux. At first Nick had mixed success whilst I trickled up and down the shoreline peering into the murky, rippling sea looking for scallops and other goodies.
Rejoining Nick I started to help him look for the characteristic depressions or holes at the surface which suggest an inhabitant in the sand below. Soon we set up an efficient team. I spotted the holes, Nick dug deep with his trusty French fork, and I scanned the diggings to look for razor clams which I spotted more easily than Nick did. Et voila! Une bonne equipe 🙂
Later in my kitchen, whilst processing the clams for supper I steamed some of the razors in white wine so the shells could flip open. What a surprise. A new piece of information for this seasoned conchologist. During the foray I had noticed one razor clam that went into the basket was the non-native species Ensis leei, formerly known as Ensis americanus or Ensis directus. As one of its names implies, the species is a North American alien, which was first recorded in 1979 near the Dutch coast, spread across the North Sea and is now rapidly spreading in northern direction and also working its way round the English and French coasts of the Channel. It seems to do well because it has slightly different sedimentary preferences from our other native species.
My new piece of information is that, in addition to the morphological differences in shell shape, and internal muscles scars, the soft body is different too. It is a strange body indeed, and has invoked some saucy suggestions from those who are familiar with it 😀 And it would seem that, certainly after cooking, the foot of the animal has a rosy blush that the white animal of Ensis arcuatus does not have. Useful stuff 😀