Gathering Edible Shellfish

For a bounty of edible shellfish, you needn't venture out any father than the sand and rocks along the shore.

| March/April 1972

  • edible shellfish - quahog dipping
    Edible shellfish abound along coastal areas of the U.S. This man is quahog digging in the soft sandy bottom.
    ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - quahog and scallop
    Shells of the quahog (mercenaria mercenaria) and scallop (pectens irradians).
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - clam and oyster
    Steamer clam (mya arenaria) and Atlantic oysters (crassostrea virginica).
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - periwinkle, blue mussels, razor clam
    Periwinkles (Littorina littorea) and blue mussels (mytilus edulis) are less popular in the U.S. than Europe. The razor clam (Ensis directus) can be hard to find.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - tools
    Tools of the shellfishing trade, L to R: Quahog rake for shallow water; short- and long-handled clam hoes for hard or rocky bottoms; a carbide miner's lamp for night clamming; clam hoe for soft or sticky bottoms; a pry bar for dislodging oysters.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 014-075-01b
    The depths at which you're likely to find these various types of shellfish.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - mussel hunters
    Mussel hunters pull blue clams from pebbles, rocks, and pilings.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - clammers
    Clammers find breathing holes in the sand and dig down 6" to 12" for their quarry.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - oystermen
    Oystermen search hard shelf bottoms and rocks submerged at mid-tide.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - fishing rights
    Towns and villages along the eastern U.S. coast have maintained their shellfishing rights since colonial times.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • edible shellfish - bullrake
    Bullrakes are the professional rake for quahogs both shallow and deep. This is a Long Island Sound bullrake, about 2' wide, used in 6'-20' of water on a sandy bottom. Drop anchor just upwind of the clam grounds and veer out enough line to hold fast over the beds. The old fellows used wide bottomed skiffs and working catboats, rowing or sailing to the beds and bringing home good catches. Our people can do without gas kickers to bring our catches home; it's been done before.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • edible shellfish - quahog dipping
  • edible shellfish - quahog and scallop
  • edible shellfish - clam and oyster
  • edible shellfish - periwinkle, blue mussels, razor clam
  • edible shellfish - tools
  • 014-075-01b
  • edible shellfish - mussel hunters
  • edible shellfish - clammers
  • edible shellfish - oystermen
  • edible shellfish - fishing rights
  • edible shellfish - bullrake

Our people need go no further than the shore and shallow water to begin harvesting the sea. Edible shellfish in great variety and number live in the sand and rocks of the first fathom. They are all excellent sources of protein, lean and delicious.

Types of Shellfish

The quahog is called a cherrystone in its smallest sie (~2"), a little neck in medium sizes (~2"-4"), and a quahog in its largest sizes (~4"-6"). It is eaten raw or steamed in the case of the cherrystone or little neck, but the tough grandfather quahogs are reserved for stuffing and chowder.

The bay scallop is the sweetest morsel in the bivalve family. Because it is a rather special creature — a clam that gets around. Because it is fished with special methods and is a potential money crop, it is the subject of an article of its own.

The steamer, or softshell clam, is a seashore staple. Steamed, boiled, or as the star of its namesake, the clambake, it satisfies the body and soul of hunger. The maddening necessity of debearding — removing the black sheath from its long "neck" or siphon — makes it somehow more enticing, and more delicious.



Oysters in stew, broiled with spinach a la Rockefeller, steamed, or (for the initiated) raw, need little comment; they are the aristocracy of the order Mollusca.

The periwinkle is eaten, steamed, or baked in garlic butter, with justifiable gusto and unavoidable daintiness using a pin by the Portuguese here and by coastfolk of Europe, but Yankees avoid this amazingly plentiful snail of the rock and tide pool.






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