Shell thick, opaque, of a yellowish-white colour, nearly equal-valved, covered at the sides with a brownish or drab-coloured epidermis; nearly triangular in form, ligament short and internal; beaks small; a V-shaped cardinal tooth in one valve, with a long lateral tooth on each side, and fitting in the opposite valve into deep grooves, with tooth-like edges.
Of the Mactridae, both Mactra solida and Mactra stultorum are sometimes eaten in England, but they are not considered very good, and are full of sand; though the former is eaten in Devonshire; and Mr. Dennis (as quoted by Dr. Jeffreys, in his 'British Conchology') says that the people of Newhaven, near Brighton, eat the Mactra stultorum also. It appears that in 1861 the steam dredging-machines were at work at the mouth of the harbour, and that they turned up Mactra stultorum in great numbers, so that the beach at high-water mark was covered by them.* They live buried in the sand not very far from low-water mark and at no great depth from the surface. In Holland the shells of Mactra stultorum are used for making roads and foot-paths; they are also burnt for lime, and the fish is eaten there. According to Poli, it is known in Italy by the name of Mezzana, at Naples Gongola, and in the Adriatic Bibaron colorito.† It is eaten at Viareggio, with Mactra lactea, and Mactra corallina
* 'British Conchology,' vol. ii. p. 424.
† 'The Fisheries of the Adriatic,' by George L. Faber.
Mactra Solida, or Trough shell.
del _G.B. Sowerby.lith. Vincent Brooks, Imp.
In Spain the names for it are Ghirlas, Pechinas llisas, and Escwpinas bestias, and for Mactra solida, Cascaras y chirlas. In German, Mactridae are called Trogmuscheln. Our rare Mactra glauca or helvacea, which is a much larger shell than either of the other kinds above-mentioned, and is at least three inches long by four broad, with longitudinal rays of a pale fawn, or a drab colour, resembling Mactra stultorum, is sold in the market at Brest; and at Granville is known by the name of Schias. It is also found at Naples, and is called Fava, by the Neapolitans. Poli speaks with evident satisfaction of its sweet and excellent flavour. It is eaten in Spain, where it is known by the name of Cascaras. It is taken in the Channel Islands, but we seldom find more than single valves upon our coast, though I have seen a perfect pair in the collection of a friend, which had been found on the Hayle Sands, Cornwall. Mr. King, of 190, Portland Road, sent me a magnificent specimen alive, some years since, which enabled me to examine the fish, and admire the beautiful colouring of its two short thick tubes, of a pale yellow shading to a rich orange; round the orifices were dark streaks of crimson, the cirri of the same colour as the tubes. The animal, however, varies much in colour; and another live specimen I received afterwards, was not so bright.
Mactra subtruncata, or the lady-cockle, as it is called at Belfast, is said by Mr. Alder to be gathered at Lamlash Bay, and used as food for pigs, and in some parts it is used as bait by fishermen.
One other species of Mactra may be mentioned as edible, as it is eaten in the Channel Islands, and also in Spain (where it is known by the following names, Arolas,Orolas, and Navallon), viz., Lutraria elliptica, very unlike the Mactridce in appearance, and not tempting to look at. It is a broad flattish shell, about five inches long, and three in height, with a long tube, something resembling Mya arenaria. It lives in muddy estuaries, and at the mouths of rivers, buried to the depth of one and a half to two feet; and I have had some fine specimens from the mouth of the Towy, in Carmarthenshire.
Mr. Dennis * says the Lutrariae are called Clumps at Herm, and I am told by Mr. Morton, that the fishermen in Jersey know them by the name of Horse-shoes, In Devonshire they are called Glams. In cooking them, they are first boiled, then taken out of their shells and fried.
Lutraria oblonga, which is a common species in some of the little muddy estuaries near Croisic and Piriac, on the coast of the Loire InfÚrieure, is said by M. Cailliaud to be very generally eaten, but it is a rare species with us, though it has been taken on the Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset coasts. At Mahon the name for it is Guitz¨; Quiquirigalias, and Cobras at Santander, and Ropamaceiras at Vigo.†
Mr. J. K. Lord states that in British Columbia and Vancouver's Island the large Lutraria Maxima, called the great clam, or otter-shell, is one of the staple articles of winter food on which the Indian tribes who inhabit the North-West Coast of America in a great measure depend. The squaws fish for them, as it is derogatory to the dignity of a man to dig clams. They use a bent stick for the purpose, about four feet long, and they cook them by placing the shells on red-hot pebbles from the camp fire till the shells open. To preserve them for winter use, a long wooden needle, with an eye at the end, is threaded with cord made from native hemp, and on this the clams are strung like dried apples, and thoroughly smoked in the interior of the lodge.*
* 'British Conchology,' vol. ii. p. 430.
† 'Molluscos Marinos de Espa˝a, Portugal y las Baleares,' por J. G. Hidalgo.
Mactridae are also found in great quantities buried in the sandbanks on the Coast of Chili.
Boil them, and then eat them with pepper, salt, and vinegar.