Blue Mussel

Mytilus galloprovincialis

Other names: Black mussel, common mussel, mussel.

Family: Mytilidae (mussels).

Description:

Available farmed, this marine-dwelling bivalve mollusc is found in intertidal waters to depths of around 20m, often in dense clumps, attached by coarse rope-like ‘beards’ to exposed reefs, rocks and jetty pylons, and was traditionally harvested by divers off southern NSW, Victoria, SA and southern WA. Aquaculture commenced in NSW in 1976, and now all Blue Mussels sold commercially are farmed. They are grown in southern NSW (around Eden), Victoria, Tasmania, SA and southern WA in clean, sheltered water 5-20m deep. The tiny immature Mussels (spat) are collected on ropes (mainly from the wild, although some are produced in hatcheries in Tasmania), raised in long ‘socks’ (to protect them from predators) suspended from horizontal ropes attached to buoys to keep them immersed (known as subtidal suspended culture) and harvested at 12-18 months. The dark (brown, grey, blue, purple or black), wedge-shaped shell with a bluish-white interior is easily distinguished from other bivalve molluscs such as Pipis and Cockles. They are the only commercial species of Mussel sold in quantity in Australia.

Season: Available year round.

Size and Weight: Average 6-9cm and 25-40g, but can grow to 12 or 13cm and 50g.

Price: Low priced.

Relations:

Green Mussels, Clams, Cockles, Pipis and Vongole. Blue Mussels were previously known by two other Latin names: Mytilus edulis and Mytilus planulatus.

To Buy:

Sold live. Look for brightly coloured, firm, intact, lustrous shells that are closed or close when tapped or gently squeezed, and a pleasant fresh sea smell. Tiny crabs are sometimes found inside Mussels, they are harmless and do not indicate any problem with the Mussel.

To Store:

Live shellfish should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. Place in a container, cover with a damp cloth and keep in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 5ºC), ensuring that covering remains damp. Before cooking, discard any shells that are open and don’t close when tapped or gently squeezed (you may need to give them 10-20 minutes out of the fridge to warm up first). Freeze meat for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

If Mussels are being served in the shell, remove beards (byssal threads) before cooking by holding shells firmly closed and sharply tugging beards away from the pointy end of the shell; if Mussels are being removed from shells, cook with beards attached, they are easy to pull off the cooked Mussels once they’re removed from their shells. Lightly scrub shells with a plastic scourer to remove any sediment or barnacles. Average yield is 30%. They have a rich, strong flavour, high oiliness and moist, juicy, medium-textured flesh. Remove from the heat as soon as they open, as they quickly shrivel and become chewy if over cooked. While traditional wisdom was to discard shells that don’t open when cooked, you can pry them open, away from the plate, and, if they smell good, eat them; if they’re bad, they’ll have a distinctly ‘off’ aroma. All of the flesh is edible, females tend to be more orange in colour, whereas males are paler.

Cooking Methods:

Steam, poach, deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, bake, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi), pickle. The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and stir-fries.

Goes well with:

Bacon, breadcrumbs, butter, chilli, coriander, fennel, garlic, herbs, lemon, lime, mayonnaise, olive oil, onion, parsley, pepper, Pernod, potatoes, saffron, tomato, white wine.

Alternatives:

Pipis, Surf Clams, Vongole.

Imports:

Green mussels (Perna canaliculus, also known as green-lipped mussels), imported frozen from New Zealand, are generally larger (averaging 11cm and 60g). They are partly cooked before being exported (to satisfy Australian quarantine requirements regarding the importation of live animals) and tend to go tough when recooked.

Recipes:

Grilled Mussels with Savoury Breadcrumbs >
Moules Marinières >
Salad of Blue Mussels with Glass Noodles & Asian Dressing >
Spiced Blue Mussels in Coconut Milk >
Hot & Sour Seafood Soup (Tom Yum) >
Linguine ai Frutti di Mare >
Black Handkerchief Pasta with Seafood & Tomato Sauce >
Bouillabaisse >