Idaho's High Desert Seafood

by

Tiny Asian clams from the sands of the Snake River
  • Guy Hand
  • Tiny Asian clams from the sands of the Snake River.

When I was growing up in southern Idaho, I remember seeing bits of broken clamshell scattered through the sagebrush near my home. I’d run across what looked like mussels in the shallows of mountain streams. But I also seemed to have inherited a mental blind spot when it came to registering those freshwater clams and mussels as food. After all, I had never heard of anyone who actually ate them.

Now I have. In the Aug. 3 issue of BW, I went in search of an Idaho version of seafood with fellow BW writer Randy King. Along the way, I found out that there are nearly 300 species of freshwater mollusks in North America, that they were a dietary staple of Native Americans and still are for all kinds of wildlife, that bivalves start out their lives as parasites, that some species live to be 100 years old, that some adventurous Idahoans have been eating freshwater clams and mussels for generations—and finally, why eating them may no longer be be a good idea.