A clam is a kind of mollusk that
has a shell divided into two pieces called valves; in other words, a clam is a
The word "clam" has no real taxonomic significance in biology. However in the
USA the word can sometimes be used to mean any bivalve mollusk. It can also be
used to mean a bivalve other than an oyster, mussel, or scallop, and that has a
more-or-less oval shape, or a freshwater mussel (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.).
The word clam is also often used to mean any one of many edible bivalve species
which live buried in sand, hence, "digging for clams" or clam digging.
Not all edible clams are round or oval in shape: the razor clam has an elongated
shell whose shape suggests a straight razor. Coming from the east coast, New
York to be exact, I am familiar with the clams we have here:
Hard-shell clams: They have hard tightly closed shells. Varieties
Soft-shell clams: You can find these in
your grocer listed as "Steamers" and are between 1 1/2" to 3". I think the
smaller sizes are more tender.
Since most people don't go out to dig clams but
rather buy them, you should look for clams that are closed and DO NOT SMELL.
When you get them home you may want to clean (purge) them. You can do this by:
- Rinse the clams well in cold water and
scrub the shells
- Soak them in a bowl of cold water - do not
use salt or sea water. I have read that you can add a tablespoon of cornmeal
or flour to help the clams purge out any dirt but I have yet to try