There have been some great tides this month for digging clams, and we have been enjoying a bounty of the delectable bivalves. Although I could never make a living harvesting clams, it is an addictive activity. Once started, it’s hard to stop searching the mud and sand for the elusive mollusks that will burrow 8 to 14 inches.
On one day, I was able to score quite a mess of soft shell clams, hen clams and razor clams. The large surf or hen clam will grow up to 10 inches. A singe hen clam alone in the shell can weigh over a pound! We use them to make chowders and clam fritters.
The razor clam, aptly named because its long shell resembles a straight edge razor of the 18th century, is remarkably fast burrower and a good swimmer. The meat is very sweet, and slightly chewy. Research at the University of Maine indicates that this clam is a rapid grower, and reaches a length of 6 to 7 inches in less than 4 years.
There is really little equipment needed for digging clams, just a rake and a container to keep the clams. We use wooden baskets known as hods whose slats allow for easy rinsing of the clams once harvested.
The clam is a filter feeder that filters water through its shell in order to obtain food. Because of this, clams are vulnerable to bacterial pollution, chemical contamination, and harmful algal blooms (red tide). Before digging, it is best to check the Department of Marine Resources website for possible clam flat closures. Also, many municipalities require a license. Here in Stonington, the resident license fee is $10, and $20 for nonresidents.
Clams are low in fat and calories, and are an excellent source of selenium, iron, and Vitamin B12. Because they may be quite sandy, we usually soak our clams in a pail of seawater for at least a day before cooking them.
In the recipe for Clam Dip, I used both cooked steamers and razor clams. Canned clams would work also. The food processor is handy for chopping them into uniform pieces, but when using freshly dug clams, the bellies, although quite delicious, will color the dip. Served with sugar snap peas and carrot sticks, our clam feast was the perfect addition to a great Maine summer day.
- 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 8 ounces cooked clams chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoons ½finely chopped onion garlic scapes
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Fold together in bowl. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to marry.
- Makes about 2 cups. Serving size is 1 tablespoon.