Approximately l7 species of edible mussels are harvested or cultured
The blue mussels, Mytilus edulis and M. galloprovincialis, are
the most common species.
China leads the world in total tonnage of mussels
harvested, with Spain second, the United States l2th, and Canada ranking l9th.
France began its mussel cultivation by accident 700 years ago when a
shipwrecked Irish sailor Patrick Walton strung a net between two poles in the
ocean to catch seabirds for dinner.
He found that the mussels growing on
the poles made a hearty meal, and so the "bouchot" industry was born. There are
now over 700 miles of mussel poles stitching the coast of France.
poles are placed in long rows three feet apart in areas where they and their
delectable mussels are exposed at low tide. The mussels can be thinned and
harvested easily, but grow more slowly because they are not submerged and
feeding 'round the clock. Basically family operations, these farms have the
lowest meat yield per acre, but France's long expanses of intertidal mud flats
make this type of cultivation ideal.
In Spain, culture on hanging ropes
began in l90l at Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast. In the late l940's the
Galacian region, which now comprises the bulk of Spanish mussel production,
entered into cultivation of M. edulis and M. galloprovincialis.
produced more than 200,000 metric tons of M. galloprovincialis in l990.
Three-quarters were consumed by Spaniards. Upward of 3500 mussel operations,
many family-run, grow the mussels on huge rafts from which ropes are suspended.
This vertical use of the water column results in the highest yield of any
mussel operation in the world, up to 300,000 pounds of meat per acre.
Mussels are cheap, easy to find, not hard to prepare, and adapt to lots
of different cooking methods. Enjoy the recipes included here.
you will find mussels in the market year-round, don't buy them during their
spawning season, when their meat is mushy and their shelf life reduced.
ones you see most frequently are Atlantic blue mussels. For them, spawning
takes place in summer, so the best seasons are all winter, and early spring.
Mediterranean mussels are grown in the Puget sound. The Mediterranean
spawns in winter, so its peak seasons are spring, summer and fall.
green-lipped New Zealand mussels, known as greenshell mussel, are usually only
available frozen, so season is not an issue.
When buying fresh mussels, be
sure they are live, with a tightly closed shell, though they will gape when
exposed to warmer temperatures; their shells should close at least partially
right away when you tap or jostle them.
Mussels are usually graded by size,
ranging from two to four inches Mussels can be wild or cultivated.
grow in coastal waters all around the world.
In the wild, they are attached
in clusters by a tough thread to rocks, gravel, or any underwater surface they
Wild mussels rarely appear to market. They are easily
recognizable by their thick rough shells.
Most wild mussels contain sand,
and the meats are are smaller than those of cultivated mussels.
buy mussels in the market labelled cultivated, it can mean one of several
The price usually gives a clue to how they were raised. The most
expensive and best-quality mussels are called "off-bottom" mussels,
are grown on ropes or posts planted vertically in mussel farms.
When it comes to Omega-3, the miracle
fatty acid found in fish, mussels have more of it than any other
One pound of mussels, in the shell, yields three and one-half
ounces of raw mussel meat or l00 grams that is the equivalent of 95 calories,
14 g. of protein, 2.1 g. of fat, .5 g saturated fat, 55 mg. cholesterol, and
sodium 284 mg.
- They filter water (up to 20 gallons a day!)
are a wide variety of mussels to both fresh and saltwater.
- Easy to feed,
Mussels can find 20 million edible tidbits to graze on in just a liter of
- They can walk. Mussels have an appendage called a foot, that
enables them crawl.
- Mussels can live up to 50 years!
- The mantles of
lady mussels are orange, gents are creamy white.
- During spawning, mussels
can lose up to a third of their body weight. It is not recommended to buy
mussels during spawning season, when their meat is mushy and their shelf life
The greenshell mussel, formerly known as the green-lipped
mussel, is New Zealand's contribution to the cultivated mussel market. The New
Zealand industry has trade-marked the name "greenshell mussel" for it,
differentiating it from the wild Thai green mussel which is smaller and not
sold fresh in the U.S. Grown on long lines, these mussels are larger than the
blue varieties, and have a lovely green edge to their shells. Half the
production of greenshells twenty years ago was ground up into a powder,
bottled, and sold in health stores in the U.S. and Europe as a cure for
arthritis. In l982 the U.S. FDA cracked down, saying powdered mussels didn't
live up to its claim, and eventually the mollusk was marketed exclusively as a
gourmet food. The greenshell's best market is Japan, followed by the U.S. and