Waterworks on the Beach

I borrowed these first two images from the Internet. I hope the owners won’t mind. I couldn’t find a name to give credit to.

These are horse clams. I’ve heard they make a tasty chowder, but they can be very chewy if not prepared properly. I think the idea is that after a lot of work to clean them of grit and sand, and taking the stomach contents out, you can either grind the meat or  pound the dickens out of it and cut it small before frying the pieces – quick and hot –  like you would octopus or abalone.

My only experience with trying to cook horse clams happened many years ago,  before I knew how tough they could be. I gave up after several minutes of not being able to chew through the first piece. Horse clams are probably named for their large size (see the ruler under the photo of the clams), but I’ve heard that even the smallest of that family will give your jaws a good workout.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I might try again, doing it the right way (but I’d have to be desperately hungry).

The diagram below shows the foot of the clam (on the left). The clam uses this for digging down into the sand. The siphon (on the right) has intake and outflow tubes. When the clam is digging down into the wet sand, the siphon helps it move along with its “water jets.” In the photo below, taken by the Captain, right into the sun, he has nevertheless captured the horse clam action. If you look closely you can see the water squirting about two feet into the air as the horse clams frantically dig to hide from him.  Actually, the tide has been going out and the clams don’t want to be left “high and dry.” (Now you can see where that expression came from.)Do you see the squirts of water going into the air all along the beach? It’s almost as tricky as running through a sprinkler to walk along this beach. Be prepared to get your legs wet.

28 thoughts on “Waterworks on the Beach

  1. John

    Wow, I’ve never seen this clam before! I don’t eat anything sea food but it’s cool how they are shooting water everywhere! 👍🏻

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I think if horse clams were tender , there wouldn’t be any left on the beaches. Luckily it works out well for them, like a defense. Porcupines have quills, skunks have a smell, horse clams have tough meat unless you don’t mind doing a lot of work and know what to do.

  2. Hans Susser

    Good stuff 🙂
    Beat the heck out of them BEFORE you chop them.
    Tenderize them for a few hours or overnight in pineapple juice.
    Don’t add salt to the cooking liquid. add a bit of baking soda to the cooking liquid.
    As Chef Susser used to say:
    “Cooking is easy! (If you know how to do it)” 🙂
    Cheers !

  3. Darlene Jones

    This prairie girl learns more about sea life reading your posts. Always so interesting, but you won’t get me eating clams or most sea food for that matter. I do like shrimp and salmon though.

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      They’re pretty tough and not usually bothered with for food because of that, but if prepared properly, they make a good chowder. You see shells here and there on the beaches out here. Some are a good size – about 4 to 6 inches – but there’s so much work to the processing, most people don’t bother and just leave them to the seagulls.

  4. Luanne

    Oh wow! This is so unique. I’ve never heard of these guys. But I will say I don’ t understand working so hard for one’s food (unless it’s black walnuts).

      1. Luanne

        Yes, I am very lacking in that area. I like a wok or frying pan, some fresh ingredients that need little prep, and a glass of wine in hand. That is my cooking!

        1. wordsfromanneli Post author

          Wonderful, and you can market my books for me. OMG the eclipse is starting to darken the sky as I write. I can see why early man was scared when these things happened and they didn’t know what was going on.

          1. Luanne

            I like that exchange of labor! Hang tight there, Anneli! It’s due to hit the maximum in Phoenix in ten minutes and it looks like normal out there haha!

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      Yes, I think they are the same type of thing – tough clams that can dig fast to try to escape. I remember finding out the hard way why they were called razor clams. You can’t just reach into the sand and grab for them blindly. They have sharp shells. But they do make good chowder (as long as you get all the sand out first).


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