Japanese Littleneck Clam (Venerupis philippinarum)
The Carril Japanese littleneck clam is a species of bivalve mollusk in the family Veneridae. Its scientific name is Venerupis philippinarum and frequently found in fish markets for its high-quality meat and reasonable price. Bivalves with the seal Carril Clam of the Carril Shellfish Growers guarantee an exquisite grown product of the Carril culture farms under strict guidelines of certification of origin, sustainability, quality, and traceability.
Japanese littleneck clams have multiple culinary attributes, thus, to be consumed raw or grilled with seasoning, especially true for those larger specimens. On the contrary, those of standard length are frequently prepared in Marinara’s style to accompany rice dishes with different shellfish and other fish.
The Japanese littleneck clam’s shell has two equal valves joined by a ligament, allowing it to open and close. Its shell is more fragile than those from other parts of the Arousa Estuary; hence, its high-yield meat. The shell’s colors range from light to blueish with brown or gray undertones, although irregular dark spots can appear. This clam’s rough surface has radial ribbing forming crosshatched patterns and, in turn, remarkably marked growth lines, a distinctive feature from other species such as the Pullet Carpet Shell Clam or the Grooved carpet shell clam. Therefore, one can look for the visible shell’s cross-linked lines, forming tiny squares, to easily distinguish this species.
Unlike other species, the lunule is more rounded and, like the umbo, possesses an exterior ligament. Starting at the umbo, the shell’s ridges, called the ribs or flutes, are well marked. The umbo area may be white, differentiating it from the rest of the valve.
Regarding its internal anatomy, this bivalve exhibits distinctive features compared to other clams; for instance, from the interior, its siphons are united for three-quarters of their length. The incurrent siphon, whose function is to carry water containing food and oxygen, has three rows of tentacles at the end. Like other mollusks, the siphons are tube-like structures that are retractile, as they stretch and shrink and perform the filtration function together with the gills.
Aside from the foot, its muscular system consists of the anterior and posterior adductor muscles, anchored in the valves and responsible for opening or closing them. The mantle covers the gills and its digestive system, which has a rough surface, unlike the smoothness of other clam species.
The Carril Japanese littleneck clam’s biological characteristics favor its development. Researchers have established that in warm waters, 20ºC or higher, the more this clam grows, the more it increases its filtration activity, implementing it up to almost four times as much as in its normal behavior.
Indeed, the shell’s rings are indicative of its fast growth speed. It is worth noting that the high quality of the nutrients in the waters of Carril’s culture farms accelerates their growth.
The Japanese littleneck clam buries itself in the sand up to 7 or 8 centimeters deep using its axe-shaped muscular foot. It also displays a distinct growth and fattening behavior than in its natural habitat, thanks to the aquaculturists’ care. It obtains its food by filtering the seawater through a siphon-like filter.
Artisanal Harvesting of Clams
Awarded the distinctive seal Carril Clam, the Japanese littleneck clam is hand-culture in the Carril growing fields in the Arousa Estuary and has a more than 40-year seafaring legacy in our country.
Harvesting is eminently artisanal and commonly performed on foot, although they might employ boats as a form of assistance, using handmade tools such as modified rakes called raños, rastros, and rastillos that act on the seabed by sieving the substrate and obtaining the precious bivalve.
The minimum size required for the Japanese littleneck clam commercialization is 35 millimeters, supervised by the organization to comply with the requirements of the Order of the Autonomous Community of Galicia from July 27, 2012; thus, returning to the sea those specimens that do not reach this minimum so that they can continue their growth cycle.
The Carril Clam of the Carril Shellfish Growers has a higher nutritional value. According to university technical studies, they contain up to 40% less cholesterol and have up to 42% higher-yield meat than other bivalves harvested nearby. The Carril growing fields are a privileged natural environment that provides this bivalve with its unique characteristics, in terms of quality, that distinguish them from other species from other areas.
The Carril Japanese littleneck clam’s meat is not as tender as the grooved carpet shell and the pullet carpet shell clams’ meat; however, its texture and flavor are unparalleled. Additionally, it has higher resistance out of the water, prolonging its life, a characteristic that becomes an advantage for transport. On top of that, this species is rich in protein; among the nutrients are sodium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.