This Mathews County family business has been harvesting clams for more than 70 years, beginning when Ernest West was a young man.
Hard-shell clams are found along the coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Texas. They occur mainly in bays and estuaries along the coast. The Wests harvest the majority of their clams in the Chesapeake and Mobjack bays.
The clams live buried only about 1-2 inches below the bay’s bottom, and can live over 40 years.
Whether shucked or unshucked, clams are highly perishable and should be eaten or cooked as soon as possible. If clams are truly fresh, they will last a few days under refrigeration in a porous bag. They should never be sealed in plastic or submerged in water as they will die from lack of oxygen. Discard any fresh live clam with shells that are broken or open, or those that do not close when tapped.