Our family really enjoys dining on Maine clams; fried clams with sweet tartar sauce, clams fritters with cranberry ketchup, clam shells stuffed with cracker crumbs and clams, clam dip, clam cakes, clam chowder….you cook ‘em, we’ll eat ‘em.
Clams are a nutritional food source, high in Vitamins C and B12, iron, riboflavin and minerals copper, phosphorus, selenium, and maganese. These bivalves are also a complete, high quality protein, with an Amino Acid score of 106. The nutrients we enjoy in clams are essential components for repairing and building muscle and tissue in our bodies.
Which is a really good thing for us those of us that love to dig clams, because digging clams is back-breaking work. I could never make a living harvesting clams, but for personal consumption, digging clams is an addictive activity.
Walking the coast at low tide, enjoying the sound of the surf and the gulls, I can’t help but notice the “clam holes” in the mud and the sand. The first few apertures are tricky to spot, tucked beside an empty shell or under a small rock. But once you get your “clam eyes”, it’s hard to stop searching the beach for signs of these elusive mollusks that burrow 8 to 14 inches deep.
Multiple digs with the rake, scooping out the mud and sand on my knees, chasing after the ones that get away, being careful not to break the shells…before I know it the muscles in my back are sore. And I have full hod of clams.
The clams I harvest in sand have a white shell, and the shell of those burrowed in mud are more grey and blue. Before you prepare any clams be sure to wash them well. Because sand clams can be gritty, I soak them in a pail of sea water for at least a day so they can filter out the sand.
The recipe for Steamed Clams in Garlic and Chives comes to me from my uncle in California. Instead of soft-shelled clams that are abundant here in Maine, the original dish featured cherrystone and mahogany clams. All are varieties of clams delicious and nutritious.