Shell of an oblong oval shape, equivalve, rather flattened, opaque, colour whitish, shading to a reddish yellow at the beaks, with radiating rays of carmine and purplish pink; epidermis of an olivaceous brown; ligament external, prominent, and of a horn-colour; beaks small; teeth, two in each valve; in the left valve, one tooth bifid.
The Tellinidae are but rarely used for food in this country, though several species are used for that purpose abroad. With us the Psammobia vespertina is stated by Dr. J. Gr. Jeffreys* to be eaten by the peasantry at Kenmare, and heaps of their shells may be seen round the huts.
Psammonia Vespertina. The setting Sun
del _G.B. Sowerby.lith. Vincent Brooks, Imp.
Mr. Damon informed me that this pretty shell is dredged during the summer months in Bantry Bay, all the boats being then engaged in dredging sand and its contents, for the farmers, who use it as manure; and that out of the heaps of sand, etc, formed on the quay, the Psammobia and other shells are collected. It is only a locally abundant species; but is generally diffused. Large richly-coloured specimens are found in Birterbury Bay, Connemara; and Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Northumberland, Pembrokeshire, Firth of Forth, and the Channel Isles, are a few of the localities given by Dr. Jeffreys.
* 'British Conchology,' vol. ii p. 400.
Athenaeus* states that Tellinidae were very common at Canopus, and abound when the Nile begins to rise, and that the thinnest of these were the royal ones, which were digestible and light. For fish-sauces, both the Psammobia and the Donax, or Wedge-shell (which belongs to the Tellinidae also), might be substituted instead of cockles; and, indeed, a species of the latter, which with us is very rare, viz., Donax trunculus, is sold in the markets at Naples, and is said by Poli to be one of the best kinds of shellfish, both for making sauce and for seasoning small rolls of bread. I have often watched the women at Viareggio fishing for the Donax and the Mactridae. They dress themselves in their husbands' or brothers' old garments, and stand in the water to the waist. They use a kind of net made of a piece of thin light wood, oval-shaped at one end and straight at the other. This is surrounded on the upper side by a small frame-work about six to eight inches deep, except at the straight end, and covered with sailcloth or some such material, to keep in the sand and shells. To this is attached a wooden handle about four to five feet in length. They hold the net before them in almost an upright position, the straight end towards them, and scrape the sand into it. When sufficiently full, it is looked over, and the shells picked out and thrown into a basket which they carry slung on their backs. It is apparently very hard work, and the poor women complained much of the cold, standing and working so long in the water before they could get a basketful.
* 'Athen. Deipn' vol. i. bk. iii. c. 40.
Dr. Jeffreys says, that according to Philippi Donate trunculus is still esteemed a delicacy in the south of Italy, and in Sicily it is called Arceddu giarnusu* and Cozzola. The Spaniards know it by the names of Chirlas, Tallerinas, and Navallas, and in Minorca it is called Xarletas.
It is much eaten in Spain, and at Malaga is very common, and is cooked with rice.
On the French Coast the Donax is very abundant, and is eaten by the poor people, but always cooked. In German it is called Stumpfmuschel. In the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique women also collect a species of Donax for food, viz., Donax denticulata.†