WHAT IS A CLAM?
It’s a popular name for several different types of fresh and saltwater bivalve mollusks. They have 2 adductor muscles, 1 on each shell that allow them to open and close at “painful for your fingers” speeds. Clams feed mostly on plankton and live in groups beneath the sand. Some breeds can grow to over 400 lbs in size with a lifespan of 100 years. Despite not having any arms or legs, clams use their “foot” (it looks like a giant tongue worthy of KISS) to burrow and move around. They’re also are highly perishable. When storing at home, don’t use a plastic bag as they’ll suffocate. Instead place them in colander with a damp paper towel and some ice on top. Some chefs even chill their clams in seaweed in to mimic a marine environment. When cooked if the shell doesn’t open, the clam died before and should be discarded.
WHERE DO CLAMS COME FROM?
The modern day clam was born about 250 million years ago right around when dinosaurs became extinct. The surge in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels wiped out a lot of this mollusk’s competition since it didn’t need as much oxygen to survive.
WHEN IS A CLAM IN SEASON?
The myth is that in the northern hemisphere you only eat clams on months that contain the letter “R.” So Fall through Spring (September through April) would be the season. While this rule was originally meant for oysters, it’s now applied to all shellfish. During warmer weather there is a higher incidence of toxicity in their natural environment, making colder winter waters the safer choice when harvesting. Also in the winter months shellfish in general store more glycogen which gives them a sweeter taste. Lastly, shellfish reproduce in the summer. So by waiting until the Fall, you’re giving your future meal some time to fatten up.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLAMS, MUSSELS AND OYSTERS?
All of them are related to each other as members of the mollusk family. And all 3 are bivalves as well. The main difference is that mussels and oysters (after the first few weeks) live in one place for their lives while clams move around. In terms of shells, oysters are round with rough shells while clams have a more squat, smoother shell.
ARE CLAMS HEALTHY TO EAT?
Like most seafood they are rich in minerals (iron, zinc, copper manganese), vitamins (B,C) and Omega 3s. And they’re a great, lean source of low calorie protein. Furthermore despite the fact that these bivalves are natural filters for their environment, they’re safe in terms of mercury contamination.