Soft-shell clam

Soft-shell clam

Soft-shell clams, Mya arenaria, popularly called "steamers", "softshells", "longnecks", "piss clams" or "Ipswich clams", are clams that live buried in tidal mudflats most famously on the coast of New England but their range extends much farther north to Canada and to the Southern states. They are also found in the UK, for instance at the Llanrhidian Sands mudflats in West Wales.


M. arenaria has a calcium carbonate shell, which is very thin and easily broken, hence the name "soft-shells" (as opposed to its beach-dwelling neighbors, the thick-shelled quahog).

It can be found living approximately 6–10 inches under the surface of the mud and extends a siphon, which is used to draw in marine water that is filtered for food and expelled, up to the surface. The holes through which the water is drawn can often be seen at low tide and water may be visibly ejected from them when pressure is applied to the surrounding mud. These holes are helpful in locating the clams for digging.

Clams in cooking

Soft-shell clams are edible and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes. Before cooking, it is generally recommended that clams be stored in saltwater for a few days to facilitate the expulsion of sand from their digestive tracts. Some recommend that cornmeal be added to the water to give the clams something to filter from it.

Soft-shell clams can be eaten steamed, fried, or in clam chowder. "Steamers" (steamed soft-shell clams) are an integral part of the New England clam bake, where they are served steamed whole in the shell, then pulled from the shell at the table and dipped, first in the clam broth in which they were cooked, to rinse away sand, and then in melted butter.

Scientific literature

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