Seafood of the Week – Cockles

November 5, 2013 at 11:45 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Live specimens of Cerastoderma edule

Live specimens of Cerastoderma edule

Cockle is the common name for a group of (mostly) small, edible, saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs in the family Cardiidae. Various species of cockles live in sandy, sheltered beaches throughout the world. The distinctive rounded shells of cockles are bilaterally symmetrical, and are heart-shaped when viewed from the end. Numerous radial ribs occur in most but not all genera. For an exception, see the genus Laevicardium, the egg cockles, which have very smooth shells.
The mantle has three apertures (inhalant, exhalant, and pedal) for siphoning water and for the foot to protrude. Cockles typically burrow using the foot, and feed by filtering plankton from the surrounding water. Cockles are capable of “jumping” by bending and straightening the foot. As is the case in many bivalves, cockles display gonochorism (the sex of an individual varies according to conditions), and some species reach maturity quickly.
Confusingly, the common name “cockle” is also given (by seafood sellers) to a number of other small, edible marine bivalves which have a somewhat similar shape and sculpture, but are in other families such as the Veneridae (Venus clams) and the Arcidae (ark clams). Cockles in the family Cardiidae are sometimes known as “true cockles” to distinguish them from these other species.

 

 
There are more than 200 living species of cockles, with many more fossil forms.
The common cockle, Cerastoderma edule, is widely distributed around the coastlines of Northern Europe, with a range extending west to Ireland, the Barents Sea in the north, Norway in the east, and as far south as Senegal.
The dog cockle, Glycymeris glycymeris, has a similar range and habitat to the common cockle, but is unrelated. It is inedible due to its toughness when cooked, although a process is being developed to solve this.
The blood cockle, Anadara granosa (not related to the true cockles, instead in the family Arcidae) is extensively cultured from southern Korea to Malaysia.
An example group of true cockles that have shells which are completely smooth, without ribs, is the genus Laevicardium. These are often known as egg cockles.

 

 

Cockles Grilled

Cockles Grilled

Cockles are a popular type of edible shellfish in both Eastern and Western cooking. They are collected by raking them from the sands at low tide. However, collecting cockles is hard work and, as seen from the Morecambe Bay disaster, in which 23 illegal immigrants died, can be dangerous if local tidal conditions are not carefully watched. In England and Wales, Magna Carta grants every citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles from the foreshore. However, pickers wishing to collect more than eight pounds are deemed to be engaging in commercial fishing and are required to obtain a permit from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.
Cockles are sold freshly cooked as a snack in the United Kingdom, particularly in those parts of the British coastline where cockles are abundant. Boiled, then seasoned with malt vinegar and white pepper, they can be bought from seafood stalls, which also often have for sale mussels, whelks, jellied eels, crabs and shrimps. Cockles are also available pickled in jars, and more recently, have been sold in sealed packets (with vinegar) containing a plastic two-pronged fork. A meal of cockles fried with bacon, served with laver bread, is known as a traditional Welsh breakfast.
Boiled cockles (sometimes grilled) are sold at many hawker centers in Southeast Asia, and are used in laksa, char kway teow and steamboat. They are called kerang in Malay and see hum in Hokkien.
In Japan, Japanese Egg Cockle Leavicardium laevigatum is used to create torigai sushi.
A study conducted in England in the early 1980s showed a correlation between the consumption of cockles, presumed to be incorrectly processed, and an elevated local occurrence of hepatitis.
Cockles are an effective bait for a wide variety of sea fishes. The folk song “Molly Malone” is also known as “Cockles and Mussels” because the title character’s sale of the two foods is referenced in the song’s refrain. The shells of cockles are mentioned in the English nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary“. Cockles are also eaten by the indigenous peoples of North America.

 

 

 

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