Shell oblong, opaque; valves inequilateral, covered with concentric striae, which become coarser and more wavy towards the extremities, and are crossed by longitudinal striae; ligament external, long, horn-colour. Three teeth in each valve, erect, very narrow.
Though so common a species, the Tapes is not so generally eaten in England as abroad, though both this and Tapes decussata are eaten in Devonshire, Hampshire, and Sussex. They both inhabit muddy sand or gravel, and occasionally we find specimens of the former in holes which have been made by the Pholas, and deserted; and I have taken them out of holes in the rocks, both at Tenby and Eastbourne, but rarely without some depression or distortion of the Valves. But the Tapes decussata is more local than the Tapes pullastra. I had never found it in profusion till the spring of 1862, when, on visiting the sands near the mouth of the Exe, I noticed that at low-water mark the ground was covered with specimens of it; and also with Scrobicularia piperata, which is called by the Exmouth fishermen the "mud-hen;" but this latter is not used for food in this country, as it has a hot biting taste.* It is said to be eaten at Spezia, and may be seen in the markets of Trieste and Venice; and it is used for making soup. It is known by the name of "caparozzolo".† Tapes decussata is a larger and more rugged shell than Tapes pullastra, though much resembling it, but it is not so convex, and differs from it in colour, being of a dirty white, with the bands, rays, or markings of a drab colour, sometimes of a purplish-tinge; while Tapes pullastra is of a more yellowish-white, with zigzag markings of a rufous-brown, sometimes extending all over the shell, and at others only towards the extremities.
* 'The Naturalist in British Columbia,' by John Keast Lord.
Tapes pullustra. Pullet.
del _ G. B. Sowerby, lith. Vincent Brooks, Imp
In the Northern Isles, the pullet or cullyock, is only used for bait.
Tapes decussata is called in some parts of England "purr," and in Hampshire "butter-fish". At Stub-bington, near Tichfield, quantities are collected, and sold in the neighbourhood, at 5d. per quart, where they are considered richer and better than cockles. They are found at low tide not far from high-water mark, and their locality is easily detected by two holes in the sand or gravel (unlike the cockle, which makes but one), about an inch or so apart. They are easily-dug up by means of an old knife. On warm, still days they appear to rise more readily to the surface; but if cold or windy they burrow about two to three inches deep in the gravelly sand. Butter-fish are considered very wholesome and I was assured by the cockle gatherers that they might be eaten with impunity at all times of the year, and never disagreed with people as the mussels and cockles occasionally do. At Falmouth, also, they are considered far richer and sweeter than cockles, and are sold in the market at 3d. per hundred.
* 'British Conchology,' vol. ii. p. 446.
† 'The Fisheries of the Adriatic,' by G. L. Faber.
M. Gay says, that at Toulon it is known by the name of Clouvisso, and is a favourite dish in Continental seaports.* Clovisse is another name for it, and at Bordeaux it sells in the market from twenty to thirty centimes per hundred, and both it and Tapes pullastra are called Palourde by the French, and also le Lunot. At Puerto de Santa Maria, in Spain, it is very highly prized, and the Spaniards say "es buena" in speaking of it; and at Vigo thousands are gathered at every tide. The following names are given in Spanish to all kinds of Tapes, viz. Almeixas, Almeija, Petchinas, Almejas, and Escupiņa lliza. At Naples it is called Vongola verace.
Other species of Tapes are eaten abroad, besides those already mentioned; and we may add another to our edible mollusks, viz. Tapes virginea, which is distributed all round our coasts. It varies very much in colour, and you may gather a dozen or more specimens without finding two that resemble each other. The brightest I ever found was near Dawlish; it was mauve colour, with white streaks. The largest are dredged at Tenby.
* 'British Conchology,' vol. ii. p. 361.
In Ireland, at Youghal, in Birterbury Bay, in Con-nemara, and in Bantry Bay, Tapes aurea is said to be eaten, but it is not a common species, though locally abundant; and in the spring numbers are found in the Scilly Isles. At Falmouth, it is brought to market with Tapes decussata from Helford, and both kinds are called "hens".
The Spaniards prize the Tapes highly, as I previously observed. At Cadiz, shellfish are considered good if people drink too much wine, and consequently they are often introduced at festas; and no food is considered by the Spaniards so nourishing as shellfish for those who work hard.
It is a rule at Spanish tables to hand round white wine with shellfish, though with other things they use any wine indiscriminately, and the wisdom of this custom is proved by experience. Indeed serious illnesses are often caused by taking port wine with oysters, lobsters, etc.; the astringent qualities of port, having the effect of hardening the shellfish, and sometimes producing violent indigestion. In Paris not so very long ago, we might have read amongst the many varied signs, the following, "le vin blanc, bon pour les huitres". The following recipes for cooking the Tapes are from Cadiz.