The soft shelled clam is one of the most popular clams that occur in North America. Also known as steamer clams, these delicious shellfish occur from Nova Scotia, Canada to Maryland, USA.
Soft shell clams have thin brittle shells and a distinctive leathery tube that encases the siphons. Adult clams are usually buried 12 inches deep or more. When threatened, soft shell clams release a squirt of water and retreat deeper into the bottom.
In New England, soft shelled clams are harvested by hand using specialized forks. In most areas, soft shelled clams are served steamed or used in chowders and other clam dishes.
In some areas, soft shelled clams are sold live in the shell. A live clam will show movement; the snout (neck) will move if touched, and the shells will try to close if disturbed. Live soft shelled clams are sometimes placed in cold saltwater in order to expel sand.