In the world of seafood, we know, read, and hear a lot about shrimp, crabs, oysters, clams, scallops, lobsters (...oh boy, can we say a lot about lobsters!). But there’s one tasty little seafood edible that doesn’t seem to get enough time in the spotlight (or at least we think so).
We’re talking about our happy little bivalve cousin to the oyster, clam, and scallop...the Mussel! You may have enjoyed mussels many times in seafood recipes prepared at home or in restaurants. Maybe mussels are even your favorite seafood! But if you really want to take a deep dive (pun intended) and learn about seafood, read on for some breathtaking facts about mussels, because to know them is to love them!
Mussels by the Alphabet!
A is for Au gratin! A delicious oven treat, when you cook mussels “au gratin”, you need breadcrumbs, which is the main ingredient. Oven-cooked mussels are one of the most popular ways to get your mussel on and enjoy this tasty mollusc!
B is for Blue. Mytilus Edulis is a common mussel found in Scotland and throughout the British Isles, which is the area consisting of the North Atlantic ocean. Very colorful and delicious, they’re uncommonly beautiful too!
C is for Chorito. In the South American country of Chile, “Chorito” is the most popular name for mussels. Of the varieties of mussels that are consumed in Chile, Mytilus Chilensis is the variety most consumed, and is noted for the type of cuisine that combines Spanish culinary influences with those of the Mapauche Amerindian group.
D is for Debeard. If you’ve heard of the term “debeard”, it quite literally means removing the “hairy” sprouting that emerges between the shell halves. To remove, pull the hair upwards toward the shell’s hinged end.
E is for “Eighth Century”. According to historic data, the first mussel farm was located in France as far back as the late VIII century.
F is for Frites! If you’re in Belgium, the national dish of this beautiful country is mussels and chips, or “Moules et Frites”. This exotic delight can be found all throughout France, but its origins lie in Belgium. There are a number of ways in which mussels and chips are cooked: with cream as in “marinière”, plain and without seasoning, topped with a sauce made of lemon and mustard, or with garlic and beer!
G is for Gill. Like fish, mussels have gills, through which a great amount of water is filtered. However, the particles and microorganisms contained the water are retained, which is why it’s important to consume farm-raised mussels.
H is for Habitat. Different varieties of mussels live in a vast number of places they call “home”:
- Marine mussels are quite prevalent in temperate seas across the globe, residing in low and mid intertidal zones. There are also other species of marine mussels that live in more tropical areas of the oceans, but not to the degree of the large numbers of mussels living in more temperate regions.
- South African white mussels are unique in that they prefer sandy beaches, burrowing themselves in them and extending two tubes above the surface of the sand to take in food, water, and to release waste. Other types of marine mussels enjoy the raging fury of a pounding surf, clinging mercilessly to wave-battered rocks, while the quietness of a salt marsh or bay is more appealing to others. Still others will go to great depths to make their home, settling near the hydrothermal vents of the deep ocean abyss.
- Freshwater mussels call rivers, canals, streams and the permanent lakes of the world their home, except for those in the polar regions of the planet. They enjoy the continuous supply of cool, clean water, and ample minerals where they can use calcium carbonate for building up the shells.
I is for Impepata. A traditional Neopolitan dish that’s become very popular throughout Italy is called “Impepata di cozze”. The significant amount of black pepper (from whence its name comes), is used as a seasoning for the mussels.
J is for Japan. Some mussels can really travel. The Mytilus gallo provincialis is a mussel that’s a native of the Black Sea and a few areas in the Eastern Atlantic coastal region. While it’s a typical type of mussel found in the Mediterranean Sea, the fact that it’s also reached as far as Japan makes it as impressive as any mobile sea creature.
K is for Kcal...or “kilocalories”, which is a unit of energy of 1,000 calories (equal to 1 large calorie). Kilocalories represent the amount of energy needed to raise a liter of water at sea level one degree centigrade. Mussels are between 58 kcal to 100 grams...making them an excellent food source to add nutrition to your diet, and that adds specific vitamins and minerals that help you maintain your health.
L is for Luxury. There are certain mussels that carry a higher “pedigree” than others, such as Provencal mussels. There’s a similarity to the Marinière recipe, along with the addition of tomatoes and herbs like Rosemary and thyme. There was a version of the recipe considered luxurious that included champagne in place of wine, made popular during the 18th century. It was a recipe with such caché that truffles even managed to make their way into the recipe over 100 years later.
M is for Mejillónes rellenos! This is a delicious mussels recipe served at Basque and Spanish tapas where the half shell containing the mussel is filled with a variety of béchamel sauce, accompanied by onion, tomato, and other ingredients, then breaded and fried. The resulting golden crust on the mussel is a taste delight, and forms all around the mussel shell too.
N is for “No pearl?” Oysters aren’t the only pearl-carrying creatures in the sea...you might just find one in a common, everyday mussel! In 2017, some Oxford University scientists discovered rare black pearls in a colony of Mediterranean mussels. The last pearl sighting in a mussel was some 50 years earlier, in 1965. Rare, indeed!
O is for Open. Mussel shells must open up during cooking to allow the heat of the flame to reach and penetrate the mollusc’s heart, so that any and all bacteria is killed off. A clean mussel is a healthy mussel!
P is for Pendant. Not only are mussels delicious, they’re rather artsy too! Beautiful, handcrafted pendants and jewelry have been made from some blue mother-of-pearl mussel shells.
Q is for Quagga. A freshwater species of mussel, this fellow is originally from the Ukraine, but unfortunately is quite the unsavory mollusk, having unceremoniously arrived by ship and threateningly invaded the Great Lakes of the U.S. Simply stated...do not eat this one!
R is for Reddish....which doesn’t make much sense, since it has to do with the gender of a mussel, but yes, they are of different genders. The reddish nuances of color appear on the flesh of the fertile, Mediterranean female mussels, which is also somewhat sweet with a slight iodine smell.
S is for Spick and Span. Barnacles are a natural companion to mussels, especially if you’ve ever seen them in the wild. But if you should happen upon one or a many and seen the shell encrusted with barnacles, fret not. That’s usually a good sign that the mussel is fresh and wild. Regardless, the color should be bright and limpid.
T is for “Trondheim”. The world’s record for the most significant portions of mussels can be found in this Norwegian city that hosts the Havfruen Fikserestaurant. They weighed in at over 4.898 kg.
U is for “Unite”. Remember being told not to pull Santa Claus’ beard to see if it’s real? Well, you might find that the “beard” of the mussel contain filaments that firmly unite it with the surface it happens to get attached to. It’s such a strong “glue” that scientists have attempted to recreate it for a number of years in an effort to manufacture a new synthetic bonding material that has a similar strength resistance and flexibility. “Magic Mussel Glue” anyone?
V is for Vitamin B12. Our bodies need vitamin B12 to maintain our nervous system, digestive system, and keep our hair and nails healthy and strong. It’s also good for keeping our spirits lifted, our energy levels up and helping to prevent memory loss and a host of other age-related conditions. Mussels, along with clams, mackerel, herring, and liver are at the top of the list of foods that contain this essential vitamin.
W is for Wine! Foods cooked with wine are among some of the most popular tastes. Mussels are no exception. One of the most internationally acclaimed mussel dishes in the world is cooked with white wine along with garlic, parsley, oil, or butter. It’s called Moules à la marinière.
X is for XXX! ...Oh my, if you thought that only oysters were the food of love, think again. In Southern Italy for example, mussels are considered to be a food with aphrodisiac aid. If you want to take the chance though, you can try it at your own risk: eat a raw mussel with a sprinkling of lemon juice.
Y is for Years. So, just how old do you think our friend the mussel is? Well, its age is the deciding factor that determines texture and flavor. A four-year-old mussel is considered “old”, so enjoy them while they’re young!
Z is for Zebra. If you live in the Great Lakes region, you’ve probably heard about this mussel. It’s an invasive species similar to the quagga. Let’s just say they’re not on anyone’s menu!
...So, now that you know the A,B,C’s of mussels, get cooking yourself with some delicious Prince Edward Island mussels from Lobster Gram. Order now, and we’ll have them delivered to you live and fresh, from our shore to your door!