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The shellfish revolution.

The shellfish revolution

Among nature's great gastronomical delights are shellfish. But their popularity has created some problems, for supplies often fall short of demand.

We can't always indulge our taste for crab and some other shellfish as we did in the past, when they were plentiful and inexpensive. To compensate, some Westerners choose to splurge occasionally with a shellfish feast. Others took for ways to make a little go further.

And even though a few delicacies such as abalone have all but disappeared from our markets, today we have more varieties of shellfish available including some that may be relatively unfamiliar to us.

Here is a 10-page guide to the diverse world of edible crustaceans and mollusks. We describe almost 50 different kinds sold in Western markets, and give guidelines to help you get good value when you shop. Directions on page 114 show how to shell or shuck shellfish. We chart the simplest ways to serve them on page 116. (For a companion guide to fish, see the October 1982 Sunset.)

Today's changing shellfish market

Air transport has changed the seafood market around the world. Well over half the shellfish sold in this nation is imported, so politics and the American dollar's value overseas often dictate availability and prices of items such as shrimp and lobster tails.

The old axiom that oysters, claims, and mussels should be eaten only in "r' months is no longer true. Nowadays, we can buy just about any shellfish any time. Commercial beds are tested regularly for pollution and paralytic shellfish poisoning, and they must meet strict requirements of shellfish sanitation programs.

More shellfish is being shipped to market live. Holding tanks, used by producers as well as markets, have developed into sophisticated life-support systems. Factory ships are processing more shellfish such as crab and shrimp at sea, bringing top-quality frozen products to market.

Our ocean resources, once believed inexhaustible, are limited. For each species, there's believed to be a maximum annual harvest that can be taken without decreasing future yields. Highly desirable shellfish, such as lobsters, are now harvested at near maximum sustained yield, and demand keeps increasing.

Such high demand for shellfish has fostered the development of new fisheries. Off Hawaii, a catcher-processor ship is harvesting a large deep-water shrimp that was discovered in recent years in the tropical Pacific. In Alaska, fishermen have found ways to catch a species of king crab that inhabits the rugged edge of the continental shelf.

Aquaculture is another promising solution to increasing the world's supply of shellfish. Significant amounts are already raised on aquatic farms or grown on beds where aquacultural techniques have enhanced natural stocks.

At present, certain shellfish such as shrimp can often be raised more profitably in Asia or South America, where production costs are lower.

Despite obstacles, a new breed of American farmers is producing some exquisite oysters, mussels, and clams. Others are starting to farm shrimp, scallops, and abalone on a commercial scale.

Most of the oysters and clams harvested on the West Coast are now farmed. Several experimental lobster farms are operating in the West. It's now possible to grow lobsters to 1-pound size in about 2 1/2 years (left to nature, it takes 5 to 8 years).

Even abalone may be easier to buy in a few years. Several farms are raising them in tanks and receways and in various habitats suspended in the open ocean. Some believe the most exciting prospect involves farming on leased tracts of ocean bottom. Divers have begun reseeding worked out reefs with hatchery-produced abalone seed.

A cock's guide to buying shellfish

The availability of certain shellfish depends on weather, tides, and the luck of fishermen. Your fish dealer can recommend kinds at their peak quality. Don't hesitate to ask about a variety you don't see; the dealer can often order for you, or he might consider carrying it if enough customers are interested.


Americans have finally discovered what Europeans have known for centuries: mussels are delicious--sweeter and more tender than clams, richer tasting than oysters. Two kinds are sold here.

Blue mussels thrive in the cold waters of New England and the Pacific Northwest, especially in Puget Sound. They grow in large colonies on gravel, rocks, or any firm surface; each is bound to the bed by a tuft of another threads called the byssus or beard. When fully grown, they's about 3 inches long. Meat color ranges from pale beige to deep orange.

Though blue mussels are now farmed on a large scale on both coasts, we still depend on wild mussels from Maine for some of our supply. They's dredged or raked from their beds, cleaned, and flown live to market.

Cultured mussels are usually grown underwater, sometimes on ropes suspended from rafts or contained in mesh bags or tubing. They grow fast and have a high proportion of meat to shell. Their shells are thinner than those of wild mussels, which makes them more perishable.

Blue mussels are at their best and most plentiful from October through April. When spawning in late spring, they're leaner and more watery, but still edible.

Green-lipped mussels, also called green or emerald mussels, are flown here live from New Zealand. Because all are cultured, they's meatier than wild blue mussels. Their flavor is more pronounced than that of any blue mussels. They're also sold cooked and frozen on the half-shell, as frozen cooked meat, and smoked.


These mollusks live in intertidal zones and in deeper offshore waters. Some have hard shells that close tightly; others have thin ("soft') shells and long necks that can't be retracted into the shell. Clams are available all year, depending on the weather and tidal conditions where they're gathered. When they spawn in summer, their shelf life is slightly less, but taste isn't affected. Before sending clams to market, most producers hold them in sea water to purge them of sand.

Atlantic hard-shell clams are sold as little necks, cherrystones, and chowders, indicating their size. Little necks, the smallest and most tender, and cherrystones, which are medium size, are sold live. Both are suitable for eating raw on the half-shell or for steaming, but cherrystones quickly become tough if overcooked. The chowders and several kinds of large deep-sea clams (including the surf clam) are shucked and the meat chopped for canned and frozen products. The meat is tough but makes flavorful chowder.

Pacific hard-shell clams. Most of these clams now come from cultivated beds, though a few are still harvested wild in Puget Sound the center of the West's clam industry.

Look for two species. Littlenecks (properly spelled as one word in contrast to Atlantic little necks) are native Western clams. Manilas were accidental imports, probably hitchhiking here years ago with Japanese oyster seed; they can now be found from California to British Columbia, often growing with littlenecks. Typically, both kinds are sold roughly sized, either live or frozen; the species may be mixed. Littlenecks have white shells and pink meat. Manilas have darker shells and the meat is a light orange. Of the two, Manilas are a little sweeter and more tender; small ones are delicious raw on the half-shell.

New Zealand cockles are smaller than domestic hard-shell clams but have a bit higher ratio of meat to shell. The meat is tender and sweet tasting. Try them as an alternative to other steamer clams.

Atlantic soft-shell clams or Ipswich clams are sold mostly in Southern California; they come in live (for steaming) and shucked and cleaned (for frying). The long neck is chewy, but the rest of the clam is tender. Because their shells don't close tightly, they're quite perishable.

Razor clams are also sold shucked and cleaned, mainly in Northwest markets. Most of the commercial harvest comes from Alaska.

Geoducks (pronounced gooey-ducks or gweducs) are our largest clams, averaging about 3 pounds each. Divers harvest them in Puget Sound from tracts leased from the state. Their meat is juicy and rich tasting; much of it comes from the neck, which is quite tough but makes excellent chowder. The steaks (three can be cut from each clam) compare in taste and texture with abalone. Geoducks are sold live and as steaks or minced meat.


From the turn of the century until the 1960s, divers annually took millions of pounds of red abalone from beds along California's central coast. Eventually, the fishery's center shifted to Southern California. Since then, overfishing and a variety of natural forces have shrunk the abalone supply and pushed the price over $20 a pound for ready-to-cook steaks.

Abalone are actually large marine snails that graze on seaweed. Four of California's seven species comprise most of the commercial catch.

Red abalone, found mainly from Santa Barbara north, are the largest (legal market size is 7 3/4 in.). Pink and green abalone, predominant in Southern California, are a bit smaller (legal sizes are 6 1/4 in. for pink, 7 in. for green). Black abalone (legal size is 5 3/4 in.) is the most abundant and affordable abalone available today; last year it accounted for more than half the commercial catch. The meat is tougher than other species and takes more pounding to tenderize, but it has excellent flavor.

If you're willing to shuck and pound one yourself, you can usually but abalone in coastal cities such as Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Monterey. Whole black abalone are often sold in Oriental markets. We've purchased one large enough for two or three servings for less than $15. Some of Alaska's small pinto abalone are also starting to come into our markets. Most are 3 to 4 inches--enough for a small serving. Steaks need little pounding.


Names like Blue Point, Chincoteague, and Quilcene indicate where oysters are grown. They tiny marine plants they feed on vary by area, producing differences in taste and appearance. Oysters are harvested year-round and are perfectly edible in summer, but during the spawning season in late spring and summer, they're not always in peak condition. Pacific and Eastern oysters are the two main species sold in the United States.

Pacific oysters, found from northern California to British Columbia, were planted from Japanese seed in the early 1920s. Most of them are raised in cultivated beds on beaches where they're exposed during low tides. They develop heavy protective shells and often grow attached to each other in clumps; most are sold fresh-shucked. Oysters are shucked by hand, and smaller ones are more expensive.

There's a growing trend to raise more single (unattached) Pacific oysters to sell live in the shell. Usually grown continuously immersed in water or exposed only occasionally, they grow faster, have thinner shells, and more meat in proportion to shell. Harvested small, they're tender and succulent eaten raw or cooked.

Kumamoto, kumamoto-Pacific hybrid, and sumino oysters are being raised on a small scale. Kumamotos are small and have excellent flavor eaten raw. Suminos are large and fast-growing; because they don't produce spawn in the cold waters of the Northwest, they remain firm all summer when other oysters may be watery. Portuguese oysters, cultivated here and in Canada, and New Zealand oysters are very similar to Pacifics.

Eastern oysters, the traditional half-shell oysters, are grown on the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic Coast to Cape Cod, and shipped live to the West. They're smaller and milder than their Pacific cousins, and most of them develop naturally as single oysters.

Olympia oysters once grew on this coast from Los Angeles to Alaska. They were farmed in Puget Sound until the 1930s, when pollution and overharvesting almost destroyed them. Now the tiny Olympias (there are more than 2,000 shucked oysters in a gallon) are again being cultivated for the half-shell trade, though they're still rare and expensive. They have a distinctive, slightly metallic taste.

Oyster farmers on both coasts also raise some European belons for the half-shell market; they resemble Olympias in flavor.


Unlike other mollusks, most scallops are active swimmers, propelling themselves along the ocean floor by clapping their shells together using a well-developed muscle called the eye--the tender, sweet meat we eat. Scallops spoil quickly if left in the shell, so they're usually shucked at sea, the muscle iced, and the rest discarded. Some shells, cleaned and polished, are sold as decorative baking dishes.

Sea scallops, dredged from deep waters of the North Atlantic, are the commonest and largest species. They grow to 8 inches across the shell, with muscles up to 2 inches.

In the Northwest and Alaska, there's a limited fishery for weathervane scallops, which are much like Atlantic sea scallops. They're sold at times in the Northwest.

Bay (or cape) scallops, netted from the shallow waters of Cape Cod, have about 4-inch shells and 1/2-inch muscles. Although they's prized for their rich, sweet meat, they're never plentiful.

Calico scallops (often sold as bays or capes), from the Gulf and South Atlantic, are slightly larger than bay scallops, though not as sweet and flavorful. They're the least expensive.

Fresh and frozen scallops are sold all year, but heaviest landings in this country are from April to September. As supplies have steadily declined in recent years, we've been importing more. Canada supplies a large share, but we also get them from Brazil, England, Iceland, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Most imports, except Canadian, are not as sweet tasting as domestic sea scallops. Some of the New Zealand scallops are sold with the coral-colored roe attached; prized in many countries, it's mild in flavor with firm texture.


Hundreds of different shrimp are sold worldwide, but the bulk of them can be classed by their origins as either warm-water or cold-water shrimp. Most of the medium to large ones, usually sold uncooked and unpeeled, come from warm areas. The familiar tiny pink shrimp taken off the Pacific coast and sold cooked and peeled is a cold-water variety.

Warm-water shrimp are often classified by shell color, but it's not easy to tell them apart. Western markets sell more white shrimp; they have thin, pale shells and very mild flavor. Brown shrimp usually cost less, and many people find them more flavorful; when cooked, browns become as pink and attractive as any shrimp.

We get warm-water shrimp from the Gulf and South Atlantic, from Mexico, and from Central and South America, especially Ecuador where shrimp are farmed on a large scale. We also import shrimp from Australia and Asian nations (often sold as banana, king, or tiger shrimp).

Shrimpers behead most of their catch at sea and pack the tails in ice. On shore, processors wash and sort them according to the number of shrimp in a pound, called count. Sizes range from under 10 to over 70 unpeeled tails per pound; larger shrimp generally cost more. They're also sold peeled; peeled and deveined (with sand vein removed); and cooked, peeled, and deveined. It takes about 2 pounds of unpeeled shrimp to yield 1 pound of meat. Large shrimp may be called "prawns'--a word widely used for shrimp of any size.

Rock shrimp have hard shells that make them more difficult to peel. They're plentiful in the South Atlantic and Gulf, but until recently not many were harvested. Their meat is firm and sweet, and they're usually less expensive than other species.

A type of rock shrimp called ridgeback is caught off California from about Morro Bay south. The season opened last October and will run to about June. Ridgebacks are sometimes sold fresh in Southern California markets.

Fresh-water shrimp (also called Malaysian or Hawaiian prawns) inhabit coastal lakes and river deltas in south Asia and are farmed in other areas, including Hawaii, where most are sold locally. They grow to 1 pound or more, but sizes from under 4 to 10 per pound are typical. Oriental markets often sell them whole. They're more perishable than marine species, and their supple flesh shrinks more in cooking.

Cold-water shrimp. Their meat is firmer and has sweeter, more delicate flavor than warm-water shrimp.

The two most important species are both very small and almost identical. Ocean pink shrimp range from California to the northwest. Northern pink shrimp are harvested in Alaskan waters and across the Atlantic from Maine to Scandinavia. Catches of both kinds have been poor recently in the Pacific; much of our supply is coming from the North Atlantic. Most are cooked, machine-peeled, and sold as shrimp meat, tiny Pacific shrimp, or salad shrimp. Larger sizes are usually better, since peeling machines tend to damage them less. A few are now sold whole and cooked. They don't need deveining.

Some of the choicest large shrimp in the world are also found in cold Pacific Waters. They include the California spot shrimp and the spot, sidestripe, and coonstripe shrimp of the Northwest and Alaska. They're caught in limited amounts in pots, with much of the catch sold fresh in coastal cities. Their meat is firm and sweet and needs no deveining. Often they have roe, which is delicious sucked off the cooked tail before it's shelled.


Four kinds account for most of the catch, though others are becoming commoner in markets.

Dungeness crab is named after a small fishing port in Washington. Large-scale harvesting began off central California in the 1940s. Since the 1960s, crab stocks there have declined sharply. Northern California, Oregon, and Washington have been supplying most Dungeness, but Northwest crab landings have slumped recently. Last year, Alaska supplied almost half of the harvest.

All crab populations seem to fluctuate widely, with years of decline followed by years of increase. The main harvest of Dungeness runs from December 1 into early summer in California, Oregon, and Washington. Catches are larger in the first few months of the season. In Alaska, they're caught in summer and fall.

Only male crabs that measure at least 6 1/2 inches across the shell may be taken. Most weigh 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds. Dungeness yield a higher proportion of meat to body weight than most other crabs, and it's relatively easy to remove the meat. At port-based plants, some are cooked and the meat hand-picked, or they're cooked to sell whole frozen, but more are being shipped live now. Markets usually cook crabs before selling them. To purchase one live, you may need to order it a few days ahead.

King crab, largest of all crabs, average 7 to 10 pounds; meat is moist and tender. They're caught in the North Pacific and Bering Sea. Since the Alaskan fishery began in 1948, harvests have fluctuated greatly, with peaks in 1965 and 1980. Since 1981, supplies have declined drastically and some fishermen have turned to brown kings, a species caught in deeper, less accessible waters.

Snow crab. The larger of two species (to about 2 1/2 pounds) is found only in Alaska. A slightly smaller one is also caught in Alaska and by Canadians in the North Atlantic. Snow crab meat is similar to king crab in flavor and tenderness.

Most king and snow crab are cooked and frozen either at shore-based facilities or on processing ships. A small amount of king crab is sold live and fresh-cooked.

Blue crab, the common Atlantic and Gulf species, are caught most abundantly from May to September. They weigh 4 to 16 ounces, with most of the meat in the body and two claws; it takes about three for a serving. Harvested in the soft-shell stage (immediately after periodic shedding of the hard shell), they're a great delicacy. The soft-shell crab season runs from mid-April through mid-September. At other times, they're available frozen.

Stone crab. Florida fishermen harvest only the claws of stone crab: they twist off one claw and return the crab to the sea to regenerate another one. The cooked claws are sold fresh or frozen; the firm meat has a rich taste.

California has a limited fishery for rock crab, red rock crab, and yellow crab (in Southern California only). Red rock and box crab are sometimes sold in Northwest markets. Almost all the fine-tasting meat is in the two large claws.

Kona crab is found in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. Kona crab are a delicacy in Hawaii, where they're harvested from Sepftember to May. The meat is sweet, with a delicate texture.


Some contend there's only one true lobster: the American one that made Maine famous. From a culinary standpoint, it has close rivals among the spiny lobsters.

American lobsters come mostly from Maine, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. Lobsters weighing more than 3 pounds are rare now, and about 90 percent of the ones caught are barely over the legal size of 3/4 pound. The bulk of the U.S. catch is taken from July to November. Canadian imports are heaviest in spring. Lobster supplies have been declining slightly each year, and prospects for more in the future may depend on the success of culturing.

Spiny lobsters (also called rock lobsters) are caught in temperate waters worldwide, with the U.S. catch coming from Florida, Southern California, and Hawaii. Normally, only the frozen uncooked tails of imported lobsters go to market. When California lobsters are in season (October to March), they're sold live and fresh cooked, mainly in Southern California. California and Mexican lobsters are also sold whole, cooked and frozen. There's a small but growing fishery in Hawaii for spiny lobsters, which have sweet, firm meat. Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and South Africa are noted for producing tails of consistently high quality.

Slipper lobsters come from several south Asian nations, but those from Thailand have shown the most reliably good quality. They average 2 to 3 ounces each and cost less than other lobster tails.

Langostinos. They've become more available since Chile, the largest producer, reopened its fishery in 1983 after a three-year closure. Langostinos are the size of shrimp and have mild, lobster-like flavor. Most are sold cooked and peeled. The raw unshelled tails, when available, have been more lobster flavor.

Fresh-water crayfish. There's a commercial fishery for them in the Sacramento area, and they're farmed on a large scale in Louisiana. California crayfish are most plentiful from late May through October. They're hardy creatures and can be shipped live just about anywhere. In late spring and summer, Northwest markets sometimes sell crayfish taken from local rivers and lakes. Crayfish meat has a sweet, lobster-like flavor but is not quite as rich or firm as lobster.

Keeping shellfish fresh

After you leave the fish market, keep your shellfish purchases as cool as possible. Put them in the coldest part of the refrigerator as soon as you can.

Store oysters with cup side down, so the juices won't leak out. Keep live oysters, clams, and mussels covered with damp paper towels; never store them in water or in an airtight container. They should stay alive 7 to 10 days from harvest. Shucked oysters that are kept in the original container should stay fresh for a week in the refrigerator.

Shrimp are usually shipped to market in frozen blocks, which are thawed before being displayed or packaged; they should be cooked the same day. Unwrap shrimp and scallops and refrigerate, covered with damp paper towels.

Store live crab, lobster, or crayfish in the refrigerator, covered with damp paper towels; use within 12 hours. It's best to eat fresh-cooked crab or lobster the day you buy it, but in any case, you shouldn't keep it more than two days.

Basic cooking techniques

Most shellfish are edible raw. They become overcooked quickly, so watch carefully and remove them from the heat just as soon as they're done. Add cooked shellfish to hot dishes at the last minute just to heat through.

How to judge doneness. The flesh of shrimp, crabs, and lobsters turns from translucent to opaque when cooked. To test, cut a shrimp in half, or cut into the center of a lobster tail.

Remove mollusks such as oysters and clams from the heat as soon as the shells barely open. Shucked oysters are cooked when the edges curl.

Simmering and steaming are easy ways to cook many shellfish (directions follow). The chart below gives preparation and serving details and approximate cooking times for the basic kinds.

Shucked oysters, scallops, and shrimp are easily cooked in a frying pan (for directions, see page 202).

To simmer crustaceans. For up to 5 pounds crab or lobster, or 2 pounds shrimp or crayfish, pour enough water into a pan to generously cover shellfish. Add 2 teaspoons salt (optional) for each quart water; bring to a boil on high heat. Add shellfish (plunge live shellfish head first into water and tuck lobster tail under to prevent muscle reflex which would splash boiling water). Cover pan; when the water resumes boiling, reduce heat and simmer for the amount of time suggested on chart, or until the shellfish tests done (see preceding). Remove shellfish at once and immerse briefly in cold water to stop cooking.

To steam crustaceans, you'll need a steamer or large pan with a rack inside at least 2 inches above bottom. Pour 1 inch water into pan and bring to a boil on high heat. Set shellfish (up to 5 lbs. crab or lobster, or 2 lbs. shrimp or crayfish) on rack and cover pan. When pan fills with steam and it begins to escape under lid, reduce heat to medium and cook for time suggested on chart, or until meat tests done (see preceding). Remove shellfish immediately and immerse briefly in cold water to stop cooking.

To steam live oysters, mussels, or clams. For up to 3 dozen oysters or 5 pounds mussels or clams, pour about 1/4 inch water or other liquid (suggestions follow) into a 5- to 7-quart pan. Put in shellfish (oysters with cup side down), cover, and boil on medium-high heat just until shells open (see chart below). Serve as suggested in chart.

For oysters: substitute beer for water, if desired; add 1 clove garlic (crushed) and 1 bay leaf to cooking liquid. Serve with garlic-flavored melted butter. Chris Shuman, Seattle.

For mussels: instead of water, use 1 1/4 cups dry white wine (or 1 cup water with 1/4 cup lemon juice); add 6 green onions with part of green tops (chopped) and 1/4 teaspoon dry thyme leaves. After mussels are cooked, transfer them to serving bowls. Boil liquid in pan until reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Blend 6 tablespoons soft butter or margarine with 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch; add to liquid and cook, stirring, until it boils and thickens slightly. Pour over mussels in bowls.

Is it fresh? You can tell

Freshness depends on how well the shellfish are handled from the time they're caught. Your best insurance of getting prime shellfish is to buy from a high-quality dealer.

If they're alive, you know they're fresh. With hard-shell clams, oysters, or mussels, a tightly closed shell is the best indication.

If a shell is slightly open, it should close when gently tapped. Touch the neck of a soft-shell clam to see if it twitches.

Live crabs, lobsters, and crayfish move their legs. A live lobster's tail curls under the body rather than hanging down when the lobster is picked up.

If shellfish die naturally, they won't necessarily make you sick, but their meat spoils so rapidly it's wise to discard them. The enzymes in a dead crab work especially fast to make it unfit to eat.

Shucked oysters or clams should be plump and free of any sour aroma. The liquid inside a jar of oysters should be clear, not cloudy or pink.

Fresh scallops should have a slightly sweet aroma and be practically free of liquid when bought in packages. The meat color can vary from creamy white to tan or orange and is not an indication of quality.

Fresh shrimp are firm and have a mild, faintly sweet smell (as they deteriorate, you'll notice an ammonia-like odor). Signs of mishandling are black legs, slippery shells, and dry-looking patches or brown or black spots on the shells.

If you purchase fresh-cooked crabs or lobsters, they should have bright red shells and be free of any noticeable odor of ammonia. It is best to use them the same day they are purchased.

In buying frozen shrimp, crab, or lobster tail, make sure any exposed meat is well glazed and not dried out; the meat should be white with no yellowing.

If you happen to buy shellfish that isn't fresh, return it to the market.

Cleaning a live crab

You can clean Dungeness crab before or after cooking. (They taste best if cleaned first.) To kill crab, grasp firmly by hind legs; place back down on board. Position heavy knife blade between legs; hit back of knife with a hard, quick blow. To clean crab, pry off back; remove and save crab butter, if desired. Discard gills and spongy parts under shell. Rinse in cold water.

Shelling and deveining shrimp

Remove shrimp shells before or after cooking; shelled shrimp absorb more flavor from cooking juices, but shells add flavor if you plan to use juices. With warm-water shrimp, remove sand vein before cooking.

To shell shrimp, remove legs. Peel off shell, leaving on tail if you wish.

To devein shrimp, use sharp knife to cut 1/4 inch deep along back of shelled shrimp and rinse out vein with cold water; or use a skewer to lift out vein in several places along back. (If shrimp is unshelled, insert skewer between shell segments.)

To devein rock shrimp, insert blade of kitchen scissors in sand vein opening and cut through shell along back from head to tail. Pull shell sides apart to rinse out sand vein. Remove shell if desired.

Shucking oysters

To shuck live oysters safely, you'll need an oyster knife (about $5 at kitchenware stores). Place oyster on firm surface with cupped side down and hinge at your left. With heavy potholder or glove to protect your left hand, grasp oyster firmly at hinge end. Work knife into shell on front right edge (step 1). Angling knife blade downward, insert it 1 to 2 inches into shell and scrape blade across bottom shell to cut muscle free (you'll feel it relax). Lift off top shell with oyster attached; cut meat free (step 2); place in cupped shell with juices. Serve within 5 to 10 minutes.

Table: Shellfish summarized: how long to simmer or steam, how to serve

Photo: Hoisting a crab pot, fishermen from Garibaldi, Oregon, find it sparsely filled--a frequent occurrence. Scarce supply coupled with heavy demand dictates higher prices

Photo: Mussels grown on long ropes suspended from rafts at Penn Cove in Puget Sound are crop of Peter Jefferds, the West Coast's pioneer mussel farmer

Photo: Pacific oysters are cultured in mesh trays on Washington's Willapa Bay. They're harvested small for eating raw on the half-shell

Photo: Clam digger uses special fork to scoop market-size clams from shallow, densely packed beds at south end of Puget Sound. Undersize clams fall through times

Photo: Dungeness crab and Maine lobster are plucked live from market holding tanks in Redwood City, California. Binding on claws keeps lobsters from destroying each other

Photo: These seafood lovers in San Diego meet periodically for a shellfish feast. The menu: shrimp, half-shell oysters, Dungeness crab, lobster, steamed clams, mussels

Photo: Mussels

Blue, cultured, Puget Sound

Green-lipped cultured, New Zealand

Blue, cultured, Maine

Photo: Clams



New Zealand cockles

Razor, Pacific


Atlantic soft-shell

Atlantic hard-shell

Surf clam

Photo: Abalone



Photo: Oysters

Pacific, rack-cultured

Pacific, beach-cultured

Kumamoto-Pacific hybrid

Eastern, Louisiana

Eastern, Florida

Eastern, New York Olympia

Belon, cultured

Photo: Lobsters, Langostino, Crayfish

Spiny lobster, Hawaii

Spiny lobster Florida

Spiny lobster, California

Langostino, Chile

Crayfish, California

American lobster, Maine

Photo: Shrimp

Northern pink, North Atlantic

Ocean pink




Fresh-water, Hawaii

Spot, California

Spot, Canadian Pacific



Photo: Crab

Snow, Alaska


Rock, California


Red rock, California

Blue, Atlantic Coast

Kona, Hawaii
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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