Mussel FAQs

SHELL’IT BE OPEN OR CLOSED?

If they are fresh and you trust the supply chain, open mussels before cooking probably just means they’re still alive. Closed mussels after cooking could be that the muscle didn’t relax or was pushed closed during cooking. It doesn’t mean that these mussels can’t be served, before discarding test by comparing these mussels to the others on smell, colour and texture (sensory). Squeeze live mussels to see if they close, cooked mussels can be set aside and forced open to compare.

LIVE vs CHILLED vs FROZEN: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Live mussels are still breathing when sold, they stay alive for around 4 days after harvesting if handled correctly. Chilled mussels can still be used if you trust the supply chain and you’ve done a “sensory test”. Frozen mussels are partially cooked, so thaw completely and add to cooking process later than live or chilled mussels. Mussels taste best when cooked at high heat for short periods of time to prevent them shrinking and becoming chewy.

In recipes live mussels can be replaced with frozen local whole-shell, in a one to one ratio, or with frozen local half-shell mussels, in a two to one ratio. So for every two kg of live mussels you need one kg of frozen half-shell mussels.

LIVE MUSSELS: SHOULD I REMOVE THE BEARD?

The byssus or better known as the beard is what the mussel uses to attach itself to rocks and ropes. It’s a filament like substance that hardens in the water and is used by the mussel to attach to objects (a beard at such a young age, pretty impressive don’t you think). Although completely harmless and can be left in the cooking process, it can be tough, visually unappealing or leave residue in the natural broth that needs to be strained. Removing it, however, is a quick and simple process. See the How to Handle section for instructions.

blue-ocean-mussels-frozen-mussels

SHELLFISH/SEAFOOD ALLERGY: AM I ALLERGIC TO MUSSELS TOO?

Within the shellfish family, it is the crustacean group (shrimp, lobster and crab) that causes the greatest number of allergic reactions. Many shellfish-allergic people can tolerate mollusks (scallops, oysters, clams and mussels).

A mussel is a bivalve, which is a mollusk and is different from a crustacean (i.e. prawns), although both are considered a shellfish. A lot of people believe they are allergic to shellfish, but in fact they can be allergic to either both or only one of these types of shellfish.

We recommend that you consult a Doctor and do an allergy test to determine what exactly you’re allergic to. Seafood and Shellfish are used as an umbrella term for a lot of food from the ocean, however they differ immensely and it might be that you can eat mussels.

SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT RED TIDE?

It’s important to buy mussels from a reputable supplier as red tide is a yearly occurrence. Blue Ocean Mussels is part of the Molluscan Shellfish Monitoring and Control Programme, which ensures that no mussels are harvested or consumed during (live/fresh) or from this period (frozen). You can read more about red tide here.

When buying Blue Ocean Mussels’ products you can do so with confidence, so be sure to ask for Blue Ocean Mussels by name.

blue-ocean-mussels-mussels

WHY DO MUSSELS DIFFER IN COLOUR?

Colloquially, mussels are called Black Mussels due to their shell colour. However, the Mytilus Galloprovincialis, commonly known as the Mediterranean or Spanish Mussel, is used for farming in South Africa. This species can be distinguished by the colour of the meat, with males being white or creamy in colour and the females orange. South Africa also has its own indigenous Black Mussel species, Choromytilus Meridionalis, which naturally settles on the ropes during the farming process. These can be distinguished by the black or blue colour of the meat. Both species share all the same benefits and taste very similar with only their appearance being different.

SEASONALITY: WHY IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN SIZE AND SMELL?

Blue Ocean Mussels taste great throughout the year, but are at their best during the cold winter months. It’s a great time to pickle them for the summer, as they are bigger and juicier, filling the shell to the brim. In the warmer summer months, spawning can occur (normally around September and December), which reduces the size of the mussel’s meat and may lead to an unfamiliar smell. But don’t fret, simply rinse them off as they are still good to eat. Alternatively, try one of our available frozen products, be it whole-shell, half shell or just mussel meat, which offer the same premium quality and taste as live mussels and is also bursting with nutrients.

CAN I PICK MUSSELS IN THE WILD?

We don’t know why you would go to the trouble of picking your own when you can just buy it from Blue Ocean Mussels. But alas, here are a few general guidelines for when you do:

  • If you intend to pick your own mussels off the rocks, please make sure you have a valid recreational permit to gather shellfish. This is available at most Post Offices.
  • Only pick mussels that are closed or close when tapped.
  • Ask your nearest sea-fisheries office located in the harbour area if the area you intend to collect shellfish is safe and there isn’t any presence of red tide.