Also known as:

Hard-shell clam, quahog, littleneck clams, cherrystone clam, chowder clam, Pacific littleneck clam, pismo, butter clams, soft-shell clam, carpet-shell clam, steamer clam, razor clam, geoduck clam, cockles, pipis, vongole.


Waters:A variety of edible clams can be found in the deep waters and along the shorelines of both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.

In the Atlantic, mahogany clams, with their shells of an appropriate dark brown hue, are harvested from boats in the deeper waters, while the hard-shell clams of all sizes are generally found closer to shore. If you've ever taken a beach walk after an Atlantic storm, you might have noticed surf or bar clams washed along the shore, large and white-shelled. Razor clams, named after the long, straight razors used in barber shops, are found buried deep in the sand along the Atlantic shoreline.

The Pacific Coast offers the smallish littleneck and Manila clams, and the most eccentric of all sea creatures - geoducks (pronounced "gooey-ducks"), whose neck-like siphons can protrude up to three feet out of their oval shells. Similar in appearance to the Atlantic razor clam, the Western Jackknife clam also resembles an antiquated straight razor.

One of the most attractive of the clam relatives, cockles, found on the frigid North Atlantic Coast and off of New Zealand, look like small sea snails, delicately ridged on one side, and tinted a soft green on the other.

Of the many sorts of clams found in nature, usually only a few types will be available at any given time in the market, so it's a good idea to be aware of which clams make the tastiest, most tender additions to a raw bar, and which steam or stew best.

Sold in their shells still alive, clams in the market bear scant difference to clams in the sea. Both Atlantic and Pacific hard shell clams are generally sold according to the size of their shells, with the smallest (littlenecks) measuring about 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 inches across the shell, and the largest (chowder clams) measuring over 3 inches in width.

Most clam meat is pale gray, except the cantaloupe colored flesh of the Atlantic mahogany clam. In the market, soft shell clams are distinguishable not for their shells which, albeit appearing thin, still resemble hard shelled clams, but by the small tentacle-like siphon poking from their necks. Similarly, geoducks are sold in the market with their enormous necks intact, since some people like to eat the siphons.

Best Cooking:

The larger the clam, the less it costs per pound, and the tough meat lends itself well to fried strips or chowders. Smaller clams like the Atlantic littlenecks are tender enough to be eaten raw on the half shell, steamed with butter and lemon, or cooked into savory soups. Cherrystone and butter clams are just the right size for stuffing. Razor clams can sometimes be found in Chinese cooking, while the siphon of the geoduck can be sliced and blanched for an excellent sushi filling.

Buying Tips:

There's no need to buy the small, costly clams if you intend to fry them or use them for chowder. For steamed or raw clams, however, it will be worth the extra expense to purchase the smaller, more tender varieties. When buying live hard shell clams in the market, choose those with tightly closed shells should you find a clam attempting to peek out, give the shells a squeeze and if the creature doesn't reseal, discard it. Soft shell clams are prohibited from ever fully closing by the neck-like siphons protruding from their shells. To test and see if a soft shell clam is still alive, just give it a poke and see if it reacts.

Nutrition Value:

Clams (raw), 3 oz. (84.9g)
Calories: 63
Protein: 10.9g
Carbohydrate: 2.2g
Total Fat: 0.8g
Fiber: 0.0g
Excellent source* of: Vitamin B12 (42mcg), and Iron (11.9mg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

Clams are not a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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