Edible Shellfish UK


Clams come in a number of different varieties. The term is often used to cover all stationary bivalve mollusks, but the type of clams most commonly eaten are hard clams. They have small, pale shells. Other kinds of clams include razor clams (which have a long, sharp shell), the soft-shelled clam and the ocean quahog. They are often eaten in stews, such as clam chowder, or included in seafood rice dishes like Spanish paella.


Mussels are one of the most palatable shellfish. They are bivalve molluscs in the Clam family, and tend to cling to rocks in low-water areas using their beard, a series of strong threads. Mussels are popular around the world, especially in North America and Western Europe. Famous mussel dishes include moules mariniere, in which mussels are served in a butter and white wine sauce. Like clams, they are often served in seafood broths or chowders.


Oysters are valuable both as a foodstuff and as producers of pearls. Most varieties of oysters are edible (although pearl-producing ones are not), and they are often eaten raw. Pearls are produced by the oyster covering an invasive parasite with mother-of-pearl; over time, enough mother-of-pearl (or nacre, as it is also known) is present to form a perfect pearl. Today, most pearls are produced by factory farming. Natural pearls are very rare.


Scallops are also bivalve mollusks, but unlike clams, mussels and oysters they can move through the water by a means of propulsion centred around them rapidly opening and closing their shell. They are filter feeders and are edible. Their flesh is quite meaty, and is usually served only lightly sautéed; the flesh in the middle of the scallop is often raw. They are usually served in a cream sauce, or with a salty cut of meat, like pancetta.

Hard-Shell Clams

Hard-shell clams, called quahogs, are scattered throughout the United States’ Eastern coast. They come in three main sizes: chowders are the largest at about 3 inches in diameter; cherrystones are around 2 inches; and little necks are the smallest at about an inch. These clams keep their shells closed tightly; you won’t have to wash sand out of the inside to clean them. Do not cook a quahog whose shell is easily opened; this means the clam has gone rotten.

Soft-Shell Clams

Soft-shell clams are called steamers and are found in muddy coastal areas like the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere in New England. The clam meat is still fresh if you poke the clam and it retracts farther into the shell. Thoroughly wash or soak soft-shell clams to get rid of all the sand that accumulates inside them; rinse them in running cold water and soak them overnight in a mixture of salt water and cornmeal. Soft clams are often served fried, steamed — though that is not where they got their name from — or eaten raw on the half shell.

Zebra Mussels (Dreissena ploymorpha)

The zebra mussel is a freshwater mollusc and is found in the lakes and rivers of America. They originated from Poland and the Soviet Union and made their first appearance in America in Lake St. Clair, in 1988. They have a striped pattern on their shell giving them the name zebra. They are small, but some can grow up to 2 inches and live four to five years. The zebra mussel is a pest to lakes due to their prodigious eating of phytoplankton and zooplankton. By doing this, they are starving out other native fish animals that are originally from the area. They produce 300,000 to 1 million eggs per year, but only a small 2 per cent live to reach adulthood. The younger mussels freely swim though the rivers and lakes, riding along the water currents from one place to another. The older mussels are stationary, attaching themselves to rocks, boats, pipes, turtles or other mussels.

Blue Mussels (Mytilus edulis)

Blue mussels are found around the world in temperate and polar waters. They attach themselves to pilings and rocks along the beach in tidal areas. They’re hard hinged shells vary in colour such as blue, purple, and brown. The inside of the shell is pearl-white with a blue or purple lined border around the edges. They grow up to 10 centimetres in length and some can grow up to 20 centimetres, however this is rare. Blue mussels are also known by other names such as bay mussels, farmed mussels and Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels.

Rabbitsfoot Mussels (Quadrula cylindrical)

The Rabbitsfoot mussel is a freshwater mollusc and gets its name from its shell shape; the shape of a rabbit’s foot. Their shells are hinged, thick, rectangular and elongated with a ridges and knobs along the outside. The inside of the shell is white in colour and the outside is yellowish brown or an olive colour that can grow up to 4 inches in length. The Rabbitsfoot mussel is an endangered species and found in clear running streams such as the Verdigris River.

Snuffbox Mussels (Epioblasma triquetra)

The Snuffbox mussel is a medium sized mussel, only growing up to 2 inches in size. They have a triangular shaped shell that is yellow in colour and very thick. Their shells have solid and broken dark green stripes along the width of it and one end is hinged. The Snuffbox mussel is an endangered species and is legally protected. They are found in fast moving rivers with cobble, sand or gravel substrates so that they can bury themselves deep within the sediment of the riverbed.

Horse Mussel (Modiolus modiolus)

The Horse mussel can grow up to 20 centimetres, much larger than other types of mussels. They live 10 to 25 meters deep in the water; some have been discovered to be as far as 280 meters deep under water. They attach themselves to hard surfaces like rocks, turtles and other mussels.

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