Mussels are cultivated on suspended ropes, which ensures they don’t touch the
seabed and pick up grit and barnacles. Their bluish-black shells are thinner as they
are grown in sheltered waters so the shells don't need to endure stormy seas.
Mussels grown on the seabed have thicker shells.
The meat content rope grown mussels is higher as they are not exposed at low
tides and so constantly feed. Rope grown Mussels are available year round
although not at their best in the summer months. Dredged Mussels can be much
cheaper, but need more cleaning to remove the sand and grit. Dredging runs from
August through to May. The myth of only eating Mussels when there is an ‘R’ in the
month is incorrect.
Mussels spawn in spring, and are not at their best as their meat content is lower,
but there is no risk in eating. Mussels make a fine starter, lunch or main course.
Ensure the Mussels are clean and free of barnacles; remove any ‘beard’ (also
known as ‘byssus thread’, and is what attached the Mussel to the rope or rock it
grew on), and simply steam in the serving sauce or over abed of seaweed. Discard
any that do not open after cooking, or which stayed open before cooking.
There are classic recipes such as moules marinières and moulesprovençale, and
you can’t imagine paella without them. Frozen Mussels are good quality, and
include New Zealand Greenlip Mussels, which have a different taste and are much
bigger, making them great for topping and grilling.