Seasonal and Sustainable Seafood – November’s Mussels

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Sustainability plays a major part in determining what fish are landed at Plymouth Fisheries every day. Sustainable seafood means it is either fished or farmed in a responsible way, which maintains or improves the population and quality of the fish. Using seasonal and sustainable seafood is an important step to ensuring the longevity of the fishing industry.

Some species of fish are more prevalent during certain seasons and can be of a higher quality at different times of the year. Fishing seasonal seafood allows other species of fish, who may be too young or off season, time to recover and build up their population.

It is currently prime season for mussels which are highly sustainable with their prime season lasting from October to March. At this time of year they are of a high quality and readily available. Averaging about 4-5cm in length mussels are quite small but are widely eaten due to the tender flesh inside their shells.

When buying mussels it’s important to ensure they are very fresh and their shells are free from damage such as chips or cracks. It is best to de-shell and eat mussels on the day of purchase although once prepared they can be refrigerated for 1-2 days or frozen for up to a month.

When preparing mussels it is important to ensure that they have been thoroughly cleaned by scrubbing them in cold water to remove any dirt and barnacles. To check their quality give the shell a hard tap with a knife, any that do not close are dead and should be discarded.

The next step in preparing mussels is to remove the beard. The beard is a collection of fibrous hairs which are used by the mussel to attach itself to the rocks. To remove this sharply pull it towards the joint of the mussel shell. It should come away with reasonable ease and these can be thrown away.  

Finally put the mussels in a bowl and cover with damp kitchen roll. Place this into the bottom of the fridge until ready to use. If any liquid collects in the bowl it’s best to drain the water and replace the damp kitchen roll. The mussels should remain closed until cooking, check any that have opened by again tapping them with a knife.

There are lots of techniques that you could use to cook mussels, however one of the simplest methods is to steam them. You can do this by making a broth to steam them in or by dropping them straight into a hot pan and allowing them to steam in their own juices. It is important to keep the lid on throughout cooking and give them a shake regularly.

After about 2-4 minutes the majority of the mussels should be opened – some people believe you should discard any unopened shells, although this is debated. You can then dish up the mussels in the broth, season them with herbs or add them to a pasta dish.

There are lots of ways to serve mussels and thousands of recipes for you to try, so enjoy this sustainable delight whilst it’s at its best.