clam chowder mise en place

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Hey and welcome to Green Fish Blue Oceans. I’m your host, Maureen Berry.

On today’s program, I’ll tackle clams and climate change. Two incredibly topics which as you can imagine have a lot to do with each other.

C is for Clams

Did you know that farmed clams make up to 90 percent of the world’s clam consumption?

This is terrific news. Clams are easy on the environment, improve the water quality since they are filter feeders and are managed most efficiently.

Farmed clams are raised on beaches (then raked, shoveled or hand selected), grown in suspended nets in the open ocean or bays, raceways, or raised in cages in the ocean. As a result, farmed clams get the high five from sustainable seafood recommendations like Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund.

You’ll find clams at the market in a variety of ways.

Canned, frozen clam meat, frozen in the shell, live clams, either fresh-shucked meat or in the shell.

So how do you know what to buy?

It depends on what’s available in your market and what you can afford.

Hard shell clams (littlenecks, cherrystones, middle neck and chowder clams) are the most popular consumed clams eaten in the US and will be the clams you see at the market and in restaurants.

Clams are low in fat. High in Vitamin B-12, C, Iron, Omega-3s, and protein.

Clams take very little time to cook. In fact, overcooking will make them chewy and rubbery.

Canned meat is already cooked. If you buy frozen clam meat, there is no need to thaw before cooking. All clams should be cooked gently.

Now if you buy live clams at the market, look for tight-lipped, unbroken clams. They should have a briny smell. Let your nose guide you. And remember, don’t cinch the plastic bag or the clams will suffocate. Live clams need to breathe!

And FYI, all live clams in the shell are required by law to have a tag with information about the product and the processor. They will be a harvest date on the tag too. Ask the person behind the fish counter if you don’t see a tag.

When you get your clams home, store them in a colander in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which generally means in the back of the fridge. Set the colander in a bowl to catch the drip. Place a wet paper cloth the top so they don’t dry out. Cook the clams the same day or the next.

You will need to clean your live clams before you cook them. Check out the Martha Stewart video in the show notes for some tips.

Now, what recipes can you cook with clams?

Oh man, the opportunities are endless. Clams Casino, Clam Crostini, Steamed Clams, Grilled clams. My favorite go to clam recipe is New England Clam Chowder. It’s a classic seafood recipe that every seafood lover should have in their cooking repertoire.

Follow this link to my food blog for the New England Clam Chowder recipe.

Now since 90 percent of the clams on the market are farmed, what about the other 10 percent?

According to Seafood Watch, the status of wild clam population is unknown in all locations, but there is no evidence of overfishing occurring. So if you live near the coast, enjoy!

All this talk of clams makes me hungry. I’d love it of you share one of your fave clam recipes with me and my listeners. Send me an email at maureencberry at gmail dot com.

You know, before we move on to Climate Change, there are two additional things I want to share with you regarding clams.

Did you know Pacific giant clams are a possible solution for an alternative energy resource?

First to give you some perspective, how big is a giant clam?

The gorgeous iridescent clams reach up to four feet and can weigh up to 500 pounds. They live on coral reefs in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans for up to 100 years. According to NatGeo, no two giant clams have the same coloration. And once secured to the coral, never move again.

How cool is that?

But back to the energy solution. Giant clams have a unique space saving system which harvest energy from alga. Work is being done in the labs at the University of Pennsylvania and NASA to try to replicate this process. There is much more work on the horizon for this behemoth. You can find out more by following the links in the show notes.

Now the second thing I want to mention about clam’s has to do with composition.

In 2013 I attended the Sustainable Foods Institute at Monterey Bay Aquarium where I learned that clams show signs of distress when faced with rising water temperatures and ocean acidification. Dang. That doesn’t sound good, does it?

Just to clarify, ocean acidification is caused by human activities that generate carbon dioxide, that come from our cars and industrial facilities. And since the ocean is a giant sponge, it sucks up about thirty percent of that carbon dioxide, according to marine scientist Dr. Tessa Hill from UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab.

Clams (and other shellfish) have a difficult time generating their shell composition, resulting in smaller shells, smaller meat and possibly weaker shells making them susceptible to predators. Some will adapt to the new normal and some will not. The winners will be urchins, shrimp, lobster, crab (crustaceans). The losers? Mussels, oysters, clams, (bivalves).

Want the good news?

Of course you do!

Dr. Hill’s work in the lab and in the ocean with Hog Island Oyster at Tomales Bay, California has shown promise.

The next step is implementing this work and action with policy makers and industry.

It’s a given that we need a carbon diet.

If we reduce CO2, given the chance, organisms can respond and adapt.

C is for Climate Change.

Climate change is a large topic with many avenues to explore, so I’m going to narrow the lens to water.

Specifically drinking water.

Here are a few quick facts about water and how interconnected we are.

  • It’s no secret that all living beings need water to survive. We could go for weeks without food (although some days I wish my stomach and brain would recognize that) but only a few days without water.
  • The bond we have with water is intrinsically linked to our health, lives, and livelihoods.
  • The adult human body is made up of about 65 percent of water.
  • 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water.
  • The oceans hold about 96.5 percent of that water and only 2.5 to 3 percent of that is fresh water.
  • Less than 1 percent of that is drinkable.

Now that’s a lot to swallow.

Think about this.

Have you considered what you would be willing to do for your family if there was a water shortage?

A few weeks ago, I received a flyer in the mail, dated Jan 23, 2017, from the City of Madisonville about the quality of our drinking water. FLINT, MI popped into my brain. In bold capital letters!

And ICYMI, the residents of Flint Michigan, all 102,000 of them, couldn’t drink the water because it was contaminated with TTHM. Wait. For. Two. Years!

Two. Years.


I got my panties in a wad over all this because all I could think of was Flint, MI. Tose poor folks!


So since the earth is made up of 70 percent water, why can’t we clean up the ocean water and make drinking water?

For one, desalinization plants are not yet as sustainable as they could be?

Desalination the process of removing salt and minerals from ocean water. Either done in a thermal plant (which requires a large amount of energy, think about that ocean acidification mentioned a few minutes back) or where seawater is forced through a semipermeable membrane to remove the salt. And what becomes of the salty discharge? It gets dumped back into estuaries or willy-nilly in the high seas. Plus it is not just salt water getting pumped through these screens, it includes marine life and plankton. And that’s not good at all. I mean if all we needed was a giant screen, there would be no plastic pollution in the ocean.

You know it’s not like desalination plants aren’t already in operation. 13,000 desalination plants already supply fresh water in 120 nations, primarily in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean. There are about are about 300 desalinization plants in the United States, with 120 in Florida and less than 40 each in Texas and California. Some 20 additional plants are planned for the coast of California in the coming years if we continue with business as usual.

And while relying on freshwater streams, lakes and aquifers coupled with reduction and restrictions are the conservation way to go, some drought-stricken and heavily populated areas can’t rely on those methods.

Here in the US, we may find out sooner than later how we will fare without safe and plentiful drinking water.

The Ogallala Aquifer, the high plains aquifer system provides fresh water for roughly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cattle and cotton in the United States.

But Ogallala Aquifer is in decline. The reason? Ground water is being discharged at a higher rate than it is being replenished.

And this aquifer depletion is not restricted to the US.

India, Pakistan, Mexico and the Middle East are also in trouble with aquifer depletion.

The biggest problem with a depleted aquifer. They can take up to 6,000 years to replenish fully.

So what do we do? Right now?

Some present-day solutions are crop rotation and drip irrigation.

Genetic crops (yes, super controversial) require less water and are already being tested and planted in fields in the US.

With our growing global population expected to exceed 9 billion people by midcentury, you can see that there is a huge potential water war for our future generations.

So beyond that, try not to get too freaked out, but don’t get too comfy either. See the US is already dealing with drought and water shortages. Look to California (now in its sixth straight year of drought). Head to the Southwest Arizona (where the Colorado river is drying up and the term megadrought will be a term we will become familiar with.

Continue traveling across the Great Plains and Midwest (nine states) where the extreme drought conditions in the last fifty years are affecting the production of corn, soy (3/4 of the world’s production) and livestock. Dry river beds are becoming a common site. Barges need to lighten their loads on the Mississippi.

Think about a gallon of water costing the same or more than a gallon of gasoline. Water will become a commodity.

So what actions can you take today?

  • Turn off the water faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. You don’t still do this, right?
  • Install low-flow shower heads and toilets.
  • Take shorter, cooler showers. Think less than five minutes (which can use up to 25 gallons of water.)
  • Plant drought tolerant gardens. I’ll have more on that in X is for Xeriscape later this year. Need some inspiration today? Check out the Pinterest link in the show notes for the beautiful drought tolerant garden ideas.

So, wow, that was a lot to digest.

What do you think?

Got a clam recipe or cool clam fact you’d like to share? Got a water solution worth mentioning? Did I miss something? Shoot me an email or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. #GFBO

That’s it for this episode of GFBO. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play so you don’t miss an episode. Remember to check out the show notes for clam recipes and additional reading.

Next up, D is for Dogfish and Discards. Have a great two weeks and thanks for listening to GreenFishBlueOceans.

Show Notes & Additional Reading

NPR Flint, MI

Michael Moore Flint, MI

Seafood Watch Clam Recommendations 

Clams 101 Martha Stewart

New England Clam Chowder

Clams and Mussels Escabeche Barton Seaver

Giant Clams TED talk on the blog

The Zen of Clams

Pacific Giant Clams

Is Desalination A Solution?

Conservation International

Drought Monitor

Pinterest Xeriscapes


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