There are two basic varieties of clams – Hard Shell Clams and Soft Shell clams.
Soft shell clams found in the Atlantic include the ubiquitous steamer. Other East Coast hard shell clams include littleneck (
The most notable west coast hard shell clams are the pismo found on Pismo beach. Small butter clams are found further north in the Puget Sound area are small and very tender clams. Soft shells found on the west coast include the razor clam and the geoduck clam (pronounced gooeyduck). Geoducks are a large six inch clam that can have a neck as long as two feet.
Selecting and Storing Clams
In the colder East Coast and Pacific Northwest waters, clams are available year round. Further south on the West Coast, the season ranges from November to April. When buying hard shell clams, tap the shell and the clam should close. If it doesn’t, it is dead. Soft shell clams should retract and move a bit when the protruding neck is touched. Fresh clams can be gritty. You can soak them in water with a bit of cornmeal to help purge any grit inside the shell. Make sure that you add a little salt to the water (clams are, after all, saltwater animals). Use about 1/3 of a cup of salt in a gallon of cool water. You don’t need much cornmeal – two tablespoons or so. The clams will feed on the cornmeal and expel the grit inside the shells.