Soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria) also have a number of different monikers. Steamer clams, Ipswich clam, belly clam, and longneck clam, are all the same exact clam. Soft-shell clams must be dug by hand at low tide on the tidal “flats”. A short handled “fork” with long, thin tines is used in the excavation process. The thin shells are quite delicate, and a more than fair amount of finesse is required in the harvesting to prevent breakage. Either steamed, fried, or in a chowder, the soft shell clams are sure to please. We at J.P.’s Shellfish source our Maine soft-shell cams through the same Beals Island fishery that has fished the very same flats for three generations. Island Made Steamers harvests from only the most pristine areas which are constantly washed by the icy waters provided courtesy of the Gulf of Maine. The method of harvest has little to no effect on the surrounding environment. By the next low tide, there is nary a trace that the area had been dug up a scant 12 hours before. Soft-shell clams live for approximately seven to twelve years, and (not unlike the hard-shell clams) reach sexual maturity by the end of their first year. There is a single breeding season for the soft-shell clams, and a one-year-old female will typically produce 1-1.5 million eggs. Clams are available in ten pound, half-bushel (+/- 24 pound) and bushel (+/- 48 pound) units.
Upon receipt, soft-shell clams should be immediately placed in refrigeration,and stored in the exact same fashion as their hard-shell cousins. Keep them in a dry and well-ventilated climate, which is held between 34 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a good idea to physically flip the clam container (bag or box) every day to allow those clams on the bottom of the pack relief from the collective weight of their brethren on top of them. Before preparing, check each and every clam by either lightly tapping its shell or touching the siphon with a finger, fork, etc. You should see the shell close, and or the siphon draw inwards, if there is no such movement, immediately discard the clam in question. If handled properly, and kept under the aforementioned conditions, the live soft-shell clams should have a life expectancy of no less than 10 days after their harvest date.