Clams are mollusks that live in seas around the world, and they're especially abundant in the Atlantic Ocean. Clams are popular seafood and are also commonly used in hearty soups and stews. The term clam can refer to both freshwater and marine bivalves, and the term encompasses many mollusks, mussels and oysters.
Clams are bivalves and their shells consist of two halves which are connected by a hinge joint and a ligament. Adductor muscles contract to close the shells. Clams eat plankton by filter feeding, and they draw in water that contains food. The food is filtered out of the water by gills and is swept toward the mouth on a layer of mucous.
In the United States, clams are especially abundant on the East coast and are very popular seafood. Clams are eaten raw, steamed, baked, boiled or fried. It's also popular to eat clams in New England clam chowder or to cook clams over rocks and seaweed in a clam bake. Clam Chowder originated as a hearty French stew called chaudree, which made its way over to Canada and eventually New England.
Around the world, clams have varied uses in cooking. In Italy, clams are often featured in pastas. In India, clams are used to cook curries as well as made into many side dishes.
The Algonquian tribe of eastern North America used a specific species of clams to manufacture money, which is why clams are an expression for money today. The term "clam up" refers to when someone becomes tight-lipped about a subject, similar to when bivalves keep their shells very tightly closed together. The largest clam recorded was 750 pounds in Japan.