Prehistoric peoples of the Gulf Coast ate large amounts of the Marsh Clam and left garbage heaps full of them behind. Early European settlers in New Orleans found the Lake Pontchartrain clam shells could be used for roads and driveways. Growing up in Lakeview the service alley at my old home would get regular dumpings of fresh shells and often other things would be found in them like arrow heads and even bullets.
I never tasted the Lake Clams, Rangia Cuneata, but the local Native Americans did a lot as we find shell middens all over the area from them leaving behind the white calcium rich sun bleached shells. Like most wild caught seafood they need to be cleaned well to get the dirt out. Like we purge crawfish before boiling. They are boiled and the water changed to clean them out and remove a muddy taste. Some others grill and cook with other foods. They are considered too small for commercial eateries but locals still dig and boil them especially in Virginia and Mexico. A local dish is made called, “arroz a la tumbada”, a rice and seafood soup.
Growing up these small clams benefited the local economy as many material trucks would carry them for construction. That was until the dreding was banned and now we use gravel which is heavier and more costly. Eating the local clams could now benefit the local economy. Local restaurants should give them a try.
“From 1933 to 1990 Rangia cuneata clam shells were harvested in Lake Pontchartrain. According to 1980’s estimates, these shells had a gross annual value of $34 million and were used for the construction of roadways, parking lots, and levees and in the production of cement ( USACE , 1987). Forty-four percent of the Lake was opened to shell dredging. Dredging operations were prohibited around the shoreline, bridges and gas pipelines. Shell dredgers used a large suction device to draw up shells, sediment and water, creating trenches 1.5-2 m wide and 0.5-1 m deep. The shells were removed and the sediment and water were discharged back into the Lake ( USACE , 1987). This slurry produced a localized increase in turbidity. Despite the economic value of the shell mining industry, dredging in Lake Pontchartrain was banned in an effort to improve water quality.”