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."
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 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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