Missouri's Freshwater Mussels

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

juvenile stage, so they are capable of reproducing at a much faster rate than our native freshwater mussels. Zebra mussels attach to any solid surface, including industrial pipes, native mussels and snails, and to other zebra mussels. They form dense clumps that suffocate and kill native mussel species by restricting feeding, breathing and other life functions.

The zebra mussel has a slightly elongated, triangular D-shaped shell. Its shell color is distinctive, with alternating bands of light and dark colors. This mussel species rarely gets larger than 2 inches in length.The Asian clam has a greenish yellow to black shell that is thick, rounded to somewhat triangular and inflated. The shell is covered with heavy, concentric ridges, originating from the hinge area. Adults are generally 1.5 inches long.

Clams in the Kitchen

With a fishing license, you may take five non-endangered mussels a day for your use. However, because all native freshwater mussel populations are declining, we suggest that you help our natives by using Asian clams (Corbicula) instead. Native clams are tough and tasteless, anyway. Popular in Pacific Rim countries, Asian clams may be taken and possessed in any number, although you still need a license. Because they are filter feeders they should be taken only from unpolluted waters and cooked thoroughly. Use only clams that have tightly closed shells. Put live clams in a bowl with fresh water to cover and let stand for 12-24 hours to clear them of sand and possible pollutants before cooking. Asian clams are easily distinguished from native species by the concentric ridges on their shells.

Asian Clam Chowder

  • 4 to 5 dozen steamed Asian clams, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups clam broth from steam pot (or substitute 1cup chicken broth, if desired)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • Optional, to taste: cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco(TM) sauce

Scrub clams thoroughly. Place cleaned clams in large saucepan, cover with water and cook over low heat until the shells open. Increase the heat and cook 5-10 minutes more or until you can easily lift or take apart the half shells. Remove clam meat and chop into bite-sized pieces. While clams are cooking, sauté bacon until crisp. Drain and set aside. In same sauté pan, combine onion, 1 tablespoon butter, celery, bay leaf, parsley and thyme (and cayenne pepper if desired) and sauté several minutes until tender. In large saucepan, combine the clam broth reserved from steaming, milk, potatoes, and ingredients from sauté pan. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until vegetables are soft and broth has thickened a bit. Stir in the clams and remaining butter and add more liquid, if necessary. Simmer slowly for 10 additional minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serves four to six.

Asian Clam Appetizers

  • 4 to 5 dozen steamed Asian clams
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 hot red pepper, sliced diagonally
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbs. cooking wine or sherry
  • 2 Tbs. cold water

Prepare and cook clams as in the chowder recipe, except do not chop the clams. Mix all other ingredients to make a marinade. Remove clams from the shell, saving half of the shells, and marinate clams in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Arrange half shells on a plate and place a marinated clam in each shell. Serve with toothpick skewers. These are popular in bars in parts of Asia where they are snacked on the same way we snack on peanuts in this country.

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