All About Soft-shell Clams

Known also as softshells, steamers, and Ipswich clams, soft-shell clams can be incorporated in a variety of dishes. This article will help you better understand soft shell clams and their culinary benefits. 

History of Soft-shell Clams

Soft-shell clams, also known by their scientific name “Mya Arenaria”, can trace their origin from the Pacific Ocean during the Miocene over five million years ago. Over millions of years, soft shell clams spread to the Atlantic ocean and into European waters.

Today, soft shell clams are an essential part of New England clam bakes. While the actual origin of softshell consumption is mostly unknown, soft-shell clams have been enjoyed in America for centuries. Many people enjoy soft-shell clams as a seacoast delicacy alongside lobster and corn on the cob.  

Image Credit: Flickr user T.Tseng ( CC BY 2.0 )

Appearance Of Soft-shell Clams

Soft-shell clams are thin and oval-shaped. They can grow up to 4 inches long and have white, beige, or tan colored shells. On the outer shells, there can be dark or gray rings that are interspersed with white, tan, and beige rings. 

Inside the shell, there is  the soft body, consisting of the heart,  stomach, kidney, a large muscular foot, and two gills, all of which are edible. For most of the harvest criteria, soft shell clams should be at least 2 inches in size. Because of their long neck, soft shell clams do not close completely.

Image Credit: Flickr user Kent Wang ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Flavor Of Soft-shell Clams

Soft-shell clams have a salty, briny taste with an underlying sweetness. Clams are perfect for enjoying the flavor of the coast. In texture they are chewy, and sometimes rubbery in nature. The simplest way to enjoy soft-shell clams is to steam them for about 15 minutes until the necks and bellies are tender and the shells have opened. Once steamed and cleaned, the clams can be enjoyed as-is or with a side of hot, melted butter. 

Best Recipes for Soft Shell Clams

Soft-shell clams can be also consumed steamed, fried, or in clam chowder. You can try soft-shell clams in as many ways as you like. New England Clam Chowder is the most classic and delicious way to consume this seafood delight.

Looking for something more involved?  Try tossing your clams into your pasta. Clams can substitute well for other types of meat. Go for the delicious Pasta with Gorgonzola Sauce with briny clams on the side or try adding them to our recipe for Garlicky Greens with Sausage and Pasta.

The Best Way to Store Soft-Shell Clams 

Clams can last in the refrigerator for about 2 days. In the case of raw clams, they should be alive before cooking. Clams are living, breathing creatures, so do not store them in plastic or other airtight containers, as this will kill them. We recommend storing them in a single layer on a sheet pan in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel, or in a colander set over a bowl. 

Image Credit: Flickr user Joe Shlabotnik ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

Feature Image: Flickr user T.Tseng ( CC BY 2.0 )

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