Our love for mussels dates back some 20,000 years. We first learned to cultivate it almost 800 years ago. This strange looking bivalve has has a poor reputation, mainly due to its overabundance and small size. However, there is more to it than what you might expect. Nowadays, mussels are very popular and relatively cheap.
Here are some facts about mussels and things that you may well be interested in:
The Health Factor
Just because they are cheap, it doesn’t mean they don’t stand up to the test of quality. These hardy shellfish pack significant nutritional value. Mussels are a good source vitamin B12, which is essential for a healthy brain and immune system. Other than that, mussels also provide easily absorbable vital minerals such as iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Compared to other shellfish, mussels contain a greater amount of Omega 3 amino acids, which lowers the risk of heart diseases, dementia and even depression. On top of that, they are a rich source of protein, with lower sodium, fat and cholesterol content compared to lean meat. In fact, eating 15 blue mussels has a protein equivalent of a 6-oz of steak.
Where do mussels come from?
There are several edible varieties of mussels and they are found in most coastal areas, but they usually thrive in warmer waters. Here in the United Kingdom, the blue mussel and Dutch mussel variety are commonly served. The ones you can buy in the market are usually grown in off-shore mussel farms to ensure good quality. They have quite an interesting way of growing them, too. Mussel farmers usually attach suspended ropes to a flotation device offshore. There, the spat (young mussels) naturally embeds itself onto the ropes. The spats are then left there for about 2-3 years until they become ready for harvesting. The rope-grown varieties are better than the wild ones too. Because they are suspended, farmed mussels contain little to no grit whereas their wild counterpart could be a tad bit sandy for your taste.
How to pick the perfect mussels?
How to know if your mussels are perfectly fresh you ask? Simple! Freshly purchased mussels, if alive, are tightly shut. In case some of your mussels are open, give them a nice tap. This should trigger the mussel’s natural reaction, and it should close its shell at once. If the mussel does not close after tapping, then it’s better to discard it since it is most likely dead. Fresh mussels have a nice fresh, clean, oceanic smell, so it’s a good idea to give them a smell. Also, just to be extra careful, try to avoid mussels that have chipped or damaged shells. It is best to prepare them on purchase since they are perishable.
Fresh mussels are nicely plump and sweet. with a mild taste of the sea. They are best steamed or baked; although there are many other ways to prepare them. Once cooked, their shells will open up, revealing the tender meat inside. Just make sure not to overcook them.