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Other Names

Mytilus edulis

Denmark: blamusling
France: moule
Germany: miesmuschel
Greece: mydi
Holland: mossel
Iceland: kraeklingur
Italy: mitilo
Japan: igai
Norway: blaskjell
Portugal: mexilhao
Sweden: blamussla
Turkey: midye
Yugoslavia: dagnje

Mussels have earned an eminent place in the culinary echelon. The Romans adored them and the French King Louis XVIII was a great enthusiast. Known to man for thousands of years, mussels are abundant in the Atlantic, though they are now often commercially cultivated. All along the coast, you'll find mussels attached to small stones, seaweed and rocks; the larger ones are collected during low tide at the water's edge.

It is said that in 1235, a ship loaded with sheep was wrecked in Aiguillon Bay. An Irishman named Walton, the only one of three crewmen to survive, lowered a net stretched over four pilings into the silt to collect his food. He soon noticed clusters of mussels appearing on the wooden posts, growing at a faster rate than in their natural banks. The first site for cultivating mussels was established in 1246 and the collecting stakes were called "bouchots" or "posts."

Few characteristics
members of the Mytilidae family

It is an oblong bivalve mollusk, usually smooth, measuring 6 to 10 cm long

The interior of the shell is smooth and pearly

The mussel secretes a tuft of tough filaments called byssus, or byssal threads, by which it attaches itself to rocks and wood near the shore

Its hard shell is bluish-black, brown, or brown streaked with black

The lean plump flesh is orange-coloured in adult mussels, whitish in immature ones

Cultivated mussel

Cultivated mussels are collected on rocks and in production areas on posts. Raised in suspension in water, cultivated mussels have the advantage of not containing any grit or sand. The technique is simple: mussel farmers place collectors into the water that trap young mussels in compact groups. These collectors are placed into the water in June and removed in September. At that time, the mussels that are captured measure between 15 and 25 mm. They are then placed into mesh sleeves (or "growing socks") which are suspended in lagoons for a year, during which time the mussels reach a size of 50 mm.

How can you tell a wild mussel from a cultivated one? The two valves, or shells, of a cultivated mussel are convex, whereas a wild mussel has one convex valve and one concave valve.



Photo: richards brothers seafood distributors, Brisbane, Australia

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