Monday, June 18, 2012

Donax Variabilis

The tide washes up onto the beach, then recedes. As I walk along the tide line I see the shore come alive with hundreds of sparkles as tiny clams emerge from the wet sand. Another wave washes across the mollusks and they disappear, only to reappear moments later.

I can't remember when I've noticed so many coquinas, these small colorful bivalves that flourish at the edge of the beach. As I walk a mile along the ocean I must pass many thousands of them, most in clusters, others spread out  in a wide pattern.

These clams, coquinas we call them, go by the scientific name Donax Variabilis. Some are yellow, some pink, others blue. Some have concentric designs, others show a sunburst pattern. They are tiny, but tasty. It's been years since I've had the patience to make coquina chowder, but it is just as delicious as traditional clam chowder.

In some parts of the country folks admonish us to stop and smell the roses. If you are on Ocracoke I suggest you stop and admire the coquinas. They are quite a marvel.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a list of a few traditional Ocracoke Island recipes. You can read it here:


  1. debbie s.8:18 AM

    Rachel found a bunch of those last week :)

  2. Anonymous8:23 AM

    Coquinas--you've sparked another question, Philip, a two-parter:

    First, are coquinas "seasonal," Do you know whether there's a time of year when they're more plentiful?

    And second: How do you make coquina chowder? I can't IMAGINE that you open the shells. I'd presume you could just scoop them straight from the shoreline, rinse the sand from them, cook them in the shell, and then perhaps strain the little shells from the resulting broth. Or maybe there IS no straining; maybe that's where the shell-picking starts, and hence your comment about having little patience for the task.

    Coquina chowder, who'd have thought? Always new insights here on Ocracoke.

    (And now that you bring up the topic of shoreline delicacies, have you ever heard of anyone using mole crabs in their culinary adventures?

  3. I will publish more information about coquina chowder tomorrow.

    Re. mole crabs -- I have never heard of them being eaten...but who knows, maybe they are tasty!

  4. I forgot to say -- we see coquinas in abundance in the summer. Maybe they dig deeper and hibernate in the colder months.