Softshell is actually a misnomer for this clam, whose oval-shaped shell is actually thin and very brittle. Softshell clams average 1 1/2 to 3 inches in length. Their shell cannot close completely because of a protruding siphon. For this reason, softshell clams have a shorter shelf life than their closed, hardshell cousins. Though softshell clam beds are found all along the Atlantic Coast, the main commercial sources are Maine, Cape Cod and Maryland. They are harvested by raking or hoeing with short-handled churning hoes (shaped like inverted garden hoes). Since their shells gape, softshell clams can be gritty. To purge the stomach of sand and debris, soak clams in salted water (use 1/3 cup of salt per gallon of water) along with a cup of cornmeal. Like many bivalves, softshell clams are sensitive to bacterial pollution and outbreaks of “red tide.” To safeguard public health, the harvest areas are closely monitored and closed when necessary.