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    Spotlight Richmond Puts a Spot Light on the Pacific Northwest

    A Pacific Northwest Shellfish Primer

    When traveling the Pacific Northwest region, it's very likely you will indulge in a few varieties of shellfish. It wouldn't be a trip to the area without at least one crab, oyster, shrimp, or clam meal. Along with salmon, shellfish is probably one of the best reasons to visit this region.
    Even though you may enjoy shellfish in other areas of the country, or world, there are always going to be differences worth noting. Let's take a quick tour of the shellfish of the Pacific Northwest to learn a little about these delicious, and natural, resources.

    Dungeness Crab
    Ask anyone who frequents this region and they will have one piece of advice for you; "First, get yourself some Dungeness crab. Anything else can wait." If you don't sit down to a meal of Dungeness crab, you have not officially been to the Pacific Northwest. This large, sweet, meaty crab is perfect for a leisurely gathering around a big table. Dungeness crab goes through a series of "molts" on its way to adulthood. You'll find plentiful Dungeness crab offshore in coastal waters and surrounding estuaries. In these protected waters, the temperatures are often more mild. This warmer water, teamed with abundant food supplies, can grow some very fine, large Dungeness crab. The Dungeness crab plays several roles in the life-cycle of the waterways up and down the Pacific coast, both as prey and predator. For commercial and recreational use both, the Dungeness crab forms a vibrant part of the area's economic fabric; and a delicious one!

    Pacific Oyster
    This large, exotic oyster was introduced to the west coast of America from Japan. Because it needs warmer waters to spawn and live, this species depends on stable, protected estuaries to survive. Adult oysters prefer firm, rocky bottoms. They will attach themselves to debris or even other oyster shells. The shells of the Pacific oyster are very rough with large ridges, and can grow to be about 10 inches long. You can still find wild oyster beds in Washington State, but most Pacific oysters you eat in restaurants or 'oyster bars' will be from oyster farms.
    Pacific Littleneck Clam
    Because the Littleneck clam is also called "steamer and butter clam," you might suspect this is one clam that is good eating; and you'd be right. This clam is very popular, both as a commercial product and for recreation, probably because it is so tasty and easy to harvest. Coastal towns from California to Alaska have relied on this clam at times for economical survival. Pacific Littleneck clams are sold in the shell, and can be found canned or frozen, as well. Juvenile clams can move around using its foot, and prefer deeper waters. Adults, however, travel to shallower waters, where they remain sedentary, almost waiting for us to gather them up to enjoy.
    Bay Shrimp
    Although Bay shrimp have enjoyed the spotlight on dinner tables for hundreds of years, now this shrimp is cultivated more commonly to use as bait. However, on the recreational front, Bay shrimp is often harvested for eating. They have a thin shell and a solid body, offering plenty of meat and an easy peel. The Bay shrimp is very dominant all along the Pacific coastline, and forms an important part of the food chain, feeding many species of sporting fish. The Bay shrimp flourishes, in part, because of its adaptability. You'll find this shrimp in muddy bays, or sandy bottomed estuaries, or even in deeper off-shore waters.
    Part of traveling to other regions is learning about the foods indigenous to the area. If you ate nothing else but these four shellfish species, you would have a proper introduction to the flavors that make the Pacific Northwest special.

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    Discover The Diverse Natural Resources Of Washington State
    When you think of Washington State, do you think of Seattle, the Space Needle, and abundant seafood? If so, you are correct, but only in part. Washington is a large state with a very versatile landscape. If you travel from east to west across Washington State, you may think you've crossed countries, even continents!
    The west coast of Washington State is in the Maritime climate zone, meaning it stays cool in the summer and has relatively mild winters. The state is divided by the Cascade Mountains, resulting in a vast difference between the west coast and the central and eastern parts of Washington.
    Most of the eastern side of Washington is in the Steppe climate zone, meaning it has hot summers and cold winters. You'll even find a Desert climate zone in the central part of eastern Washington.
    These climate zones, created in part by the Cascade Mountain divide, means that while the Seattle/Olympia area (west coast) will have an average rainfall per year around 38 inches, Spokane/Pullman (east coast) will have an average rainfall per year around 16 inches, and the desert zone has on average less than 10 inches of rainfall per year.
    Then there is an actual rainforest situated in the Olympic Mountains which has rainfalls on average of 140 inches per year. The city of Olympia, the state capital, is at the southern end of Puget Sound and, just like her northern neighbor, Seattle, receives a fair share of rainfall.
    All this rain makes for lush green fields and forests, perfect for growing crops and keeping the waterways well stocked with a wide variety of fish and other seafood.
    However, that doesn't mean eastern Washington is barren. On the contrary. As glaciers were receding thousands of years ago, they carried with them fertile top soil that settled to form rich farmland, along with rivers and streams that feed the eastern valleys.
    The diversity of this state's topography and climate results in a wide variety of crops; in fact over 200 different crops!  Washington's most valuable commodity is the apple, followed by milk, wheat, potatoes, and cattle. 
    Along with these valuable commodities, Washington State also leads the nation in production of many other crops - over 90% of all raspberries, over 75% of all hops and all spearmint oil, and about 50% of all cherries, concord grapes, and pears. In rich eastern farmlands you'll also find onions, peaches, barley, alfalfa, corn, garbanzo beans, blueberries, and plenty of forestry products.
    We may be most familiar with the abundant seafood that comes from the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, and a multitude of waterways. We also are surely familiar with the bags and bags of apples we see in our grocery store marked "Washington State."  We may even have sampled a sweet Walla Walla onion at some point. But that just scratches the surface of this state's abundance. 
    With its naturally mild climate to the west, and its rich glacier fed soils to the east, Washington State has much more to offer than we may see at first glance. If you get a chance, travel this state and get to know (and enjoy!) her diverse natural resources.