Types Of Mussels
A craving for mussels can quickly be dashed if you aren’t sure what types of mussels you need for your dish. If you’re lucky enough to have a fresh fish market where you live then you will likely be spoiled for choice. If you aren’t so lucky then it’s off to the frozen seafood section at your local grocery store. (Don’t worry, there will probably be a decent selection awaiting you!) There are over 70 types of mussels out there and not all of them are suitable or even recommended for eating. In fact, there are only 17 species of mussel that are fit to be eaten. The three main types of mussels that are consumed are Mediterranean mussels, green-lipped mussels, and the world-wide favorite, blue mussels.
Below you will learn about the main difference between these types of mussels and how they are best prepared.
The Mediterranean mussel, or mytilus galloprovincialis, is a species of edible mussel that was originally found in the Mediterranean as well as around the southern area of Africa, but these mussels have since been introduced into the coastal areas of California up to Washington. This mussel is quite large and can grow as long as 14 centimeters, or five and a half inches, which makes them one of the largest commercially-available mussels on the market. The shell color of Mediterranean mussels can vary between a nice purple-blue to brown or black. These mussels are less likely to have excessive grit and sand in them because they can grow without ever having touched the bottom of the ocean. While Mediterranean mussels can usually be purchased all throughout the year, but you will probably find that the best quality will be found in the months between spring and autumn, as spawning time is in the winter for this species. This species tends to be of a meaty consistency with a smooth texture and fragile, intricate flavor.
The Mediterranean mussel is great for stir boiling, steaming, grilling, added to salads, or thrown into a creamy pasta dish.
Green-lipped mussels hail from New Zealand where they are extremely important to the country as an export. This species gets its name from the color of its shell, which is mostly dark brownish green or black with a green “lip” where the tips of the shells meet. This species is huge and can grow up to a whopping nine and a half inches long! This type of mussel is likely to cost much more than other types of mussels that you might find in the United States because they are primarily harvested in New Zealand, which means that the demand is a bit higher simply because of the fact that these mussels aren’t very common in North America. They are, however, very flavorful and meaty—perfect if you want a filling dinner or if you want to stretch a meal between several people.
The green lipped mussel would be nice served any way you like, even sautéed!
Blue mussels, or mytilus edulis, are by far the most common of all types of mussels in America. Blue mussels have a blue-black colored shell on the outside which is glossy purple on the inside. The typical size for the blue mussel is around four inches in length and two inches in width. This is much smaller compared to the other two types of mussels that we have talked about, but they are very versatile and can be purchased easily and cheaply. The leading producer of this species is Prince Edward Island, in Canada. In the United States the bulk of most blue mussels are churned out by the New England area.
These mussels can be cooked a number of ways. A popular method is to simply steam or boil the mussels in a chosen sauce or liquid, such as coconut milk, lime, and cilantro or broth. They can also be grilled, sautéed, thrown into seafood stews or soups, added to nice white or red pasta, or eaten with salad or bruschetta.
As with most types of seafood, the best option is to purchase the mussels fresh. Although you can definitely still enjoy the delicate flavor of mollusks that have been frozen, they simply do not compare to the flavor of fresh mussels. If you are able to acquire fresh mussels from a local fisher’s market then be sure to use the mussels within 48 hours at the most, as the flavor can seriously degrade after this time. Before cooking mussels it’s always a good idea to go through each mussel and check to make sure that none of the shells have opened. They should be firmly closed or, if they are fresh, they should close when you tap the top of the shell. Any mussels that are not tightly shut should be discarded prior to the cooking process because they are likely already dead and should not be eaten even after being cooked. There is a myth that says one should not eat cooked mussels that did not pop open after being cooked. Studies have shown that these mussels are still safe to eat and are fully cooked—they simply need to be pried open with a knife.
So now that you know about the different types of mussels that can be eaten and how they can be cooked, you should find yourself enjoying this tasty seafood in no time!