Digging for dinner

Before our trip, I booked a “digging for dinner” experience for our family. I wanted us, but particularly the kids, to experience things on PEI that an island family would experience or know about. Digging for soft-shell clams during low tide fit the bill!

We met our guide, Ron, in Summerside and followed him out to a spot where salt water and fresh water meet. We grabbed some shovels and a bucket and off we went onto the sand.

Going diggin

You don’t need a license to dig clams but there is a maximum number you can collect a day and each clam has to be a minimum of 2 inches long. Ron had a guage for measuring:


Ron, a retired teacher, really knew how to engage the children right away. He explained about the minimum size requirement and then made Claire and Ren “sheriffs” in charge of measuring the clams. Can you tell how thrilled Ren was?!

the sheriff

Ron explained that we had to look for little holes, a sure sign of clams. And then you simply dig and bring them up.

First dig

We adults usually did the digging while the kids fetched the clams and measured them.

Serious workers
Sheriffs measuring

The clams would often squirt sea water when dug up. We called them “squirters”. Claire loved to call out, “Oh, we have a squirter over here!” or some such phrase. They would also stick something (??) out of the shell as they squirted. It was actually pretty gross looking. As soon as Ren would take hold of a clam, he’d always use one finger to stick that pokey-outy-thing back into its shell. It was a pretty funny little routine despite its high ick factor for me.

Diptych 3

The clams were so plentiful that often the kids would grab a whole handful before going back to the pail to measure them.

Handful of clams

The Law took some turns digging as well.

1 2 3 lift

Both kids worked really hard and were totally into the experience. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case so I was especially thrilled about their participation. It was cute to hear Claire call out various little things like, “Oh, we got a keeper here!” or “Keep up the good work, Mama!” or “That’s a lover!” As for Ren, once he got tired of measuring clams, he was happy to just hop around the sand and look at stuff. Whenever Ron went walking about, Ren followed.


Before long, we had more than enough clams for our dinner:


Ron then took us back to his friend’s yard where there is a 1942 CN caboose. It was a great setting for a rustic little meal and a fun place for the kids to visit.

at the caboose

You know the saying, “happy as a clam?” Well, that was Ren in the caboose:

happy conductor

By the way, I just googled the phrase, “happy as a clam” to learn its origin. Apparently, the original saying (dating back to the 1800’s) was “happy as a clam in high water”, meaning the clams were safe from predators at high tide. Somewhere over the years, the latter half of the saying dropped off.

Ron chopped up some onions, garlic and carrots to steam with the clams in a broth of beer and butter.

Prepping supper

And then out we went into the yard to steam them. Before long, they were done and we had ourselves a feast!

clams diptych

We had more clams than we could eat. Ren tried only one, Claire had a few, I had several and Paul had lots. They were very yummy but I was a little grossed out by the memory of those sticky-outy-things.

This experience was definitely a highlight of the trip for all of us. It was something completely different from our lives in Alberta, and Ron made the adventure fun and interesting for kids and adults alike. Now, if and when we return to PEI, we’ll be able to go out digging for clams on our own!

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  • I would love to do this! I think I will add it to my bucket list…ReplyCancel

  • All of the entries are wonderful. The clam thing sounds like fun, though I"m not sure anyone but me would really want to eat them when done!
    I love the little Annes pics. Funny girls. Looks like an awesome trip, so much done in so little time.ReplyCancel

  • What an incredibly fun idea!! I would totally add this to my bucket list too, and I get you on the hard to eat them after the funny little 'thing' comig out of them… I would have been thinking about it the whole time too!! Haha!

    Love these pictures, and love what your kids say… so special!


  • Rae

    This sounds like a great experience and lots of fun. Especially if the kiddos were the ones picking up the little critters!ReplyCancel

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