One of the greatest joys of living in the lowcountry of South Carolina is the availability of fresh, local seafood all year long. Whether you fish yourself, of rely on the hard work of others to get your fill, it’s not hard to get hold of nutritious, flavorful seafood – including shellfish such as clams. With Capt. Mike’s Bluewater Seafood store, on Highway 170, in Okatie, offering fresh littleneck clams at just $4 a dozen, clam lovers can dig into some good clam dishes, whether their preference for clams is steamed or baked, or broiled or fried. Even eaten raw, clams are a shellfish lover’s delight, as long as the clams are fresh, live and cleaned well. When choosing clams, select only those that are not broken, cracked or have damaged shells. Also, avoid purchasing clams that are not tightly closed, or do not close when lightly tapped, as they are likely dead. (A live clam will have its shell tightly shut, or if it’s slightly open, will shut when tapped.) Once you get your clams home, store them in the refrigerator for up to three days in an open container loosely covered with a damp towel. (Live clams need to breathe, so give them breathing room – do not store them on ice or in a sealed plastic bag.) When you are ready to eat or cook your clams, clean them thoroughly by covering them in cold water in a clean basin. Changing the water two or three times, allow clams to soak for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, scrub the clams with a stiff brush under cold running water to remove any remaining grit. (If any of the clams open, tap on it – should the clam not close, discard it.) If one of your resolutions for the New Year is to eat more fish – or shellfish – now’s the time to begin and a platter of baked Clams Casino (recipe follows) is a delicious place to start.