Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surf Clams

We returned to the beach yesterday under another clear winter sky. A cold sea breeze kept the beachgoers to just a few of us. There were more black-backed and herring gulls than people and dogs. We discovered that the Rye Beach, which is separated from Wallis Sands Beach by a breakwater, is formally open to people and their pets from October to Memorial Day.



The tide was going out when we arrived. Left behind along the high tide line were dozens and dozens of surf clams (Spisula solidissima).


The clams were all empty of life; perhaps the gulls had already dined on them, but they didn't appear to be disturbed. More like a still life painting, created by the rough action of the ocean waves.


These clams were big, up to five inches across (apparently they can grow to 8 inches and live to 30+ years). Their shells are sturdy. The surf clam is the biggest bivalve (shells with two halves) in these parts. The shell makes for a good sand shovel or brought home for a decorative dish.



The surf clam makes up a big part of the commercial clam harvest off New Jersey and other areas, but is not harvested in the Gulf of Maine. Much of the harvest is canned and is probably the kind that goes into my Mom's clam chowder recipe. Ummm, I think I have a few cans in the pantry. Might be a nice lunch on a cold winter day, with 6 more inches of wet snow on the way.

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