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How to pick mussels

There are many places along the coast of Nova Scotia to pick your very own mussels.

Growing up along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, picking mussels was one of my favourite pastimes. Some like to keep their mussel patches secret. One wouldn’t want to give away too good of a good thing right? So I’ll explain the “how to”, for now.

Blue mussels can be found in cold and warm waters all over the world, however many of them are found along the coast of Nova Scotia. They are a member of the clam family and are somewhat similar in appearance-except for the blue-black coloring.

Mussels can be picked at low tide. Unlike clams, they grow above the sand amongst seaweed around rocks. One can tell that mussels are in the area by noticing how many empty mussel sheets are lying around. If there are lots of empty shells, then walk to the waters edge, move aside the seaweed around the rocks, and have a look. There is no need to remove the seaweed, it generally stays where you want it to stay. Rocks can be slippery so be careful. If you notice a cluster of mussels, grab one and tug (they can attached themselves firmly to a rock).

In summer-time, mussels’ capacity to filter small particles makes them accumulators of the deadly red tide organism, Gonyaulax. Please check with the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture before mussel picking to make sure your area is safe: aquaculture@gov.ns.ca. Don’t plan on pickin’ until you get the thumbs up!

Once picked, take your bounty home. Wash them well in the sink with cold water and gently tap two together at a time.  If they stay tightly closed, they are good to eat. Discard the ones that don’t close and stay open. Now, try this fabulous recipe.

The difference in colour of the meat has nothing to do with a difference in taste. I’m told that the orange meat is a mature female mussel, whilst the pale cream meat mussels are males (or immature females). Yummy.

Blue mussell photo is Courtesy of Sean MacNeill.

Here’s a yummy Curry Cream Mussel recipe

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