This popular shellfish is delicious, healthy and cheap, too. Find out how sustainable, plentiful Scottish mussels make their way to your plate.
Plump, juicy, cheap and quick to cook, mussels are the ultimate fast food, and they’re a useful source of omega-3, too. Rob Mitchell is commercial director at Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, which has supplied mussels to Tesco for 16 years. He knows a thing or two about what makes a good’un.
‘The waters in the west coast of Scotland, where our farms are based, are clean, cold and rich in plankton, which makes them perfect for mussels,’ Rob says. ‘The scenery round here is some of the most stunning in Europe, too, which is a bonus for our shellfish farmers, but farming mussels is a tough job, with sunrise starts in challenging weather conditions.
‘The mussels start of as larvae that settle naturally on ropes suspended in the sea. They feed entirely of plankton and it’s about three years before they’re ready to harvest. We farm the mussels sustainably all year round, and the great thing is, we have lots of farms here in Scotland, so we can be very selective about the mussels we harvest, picking only those that are absolutely at their prime.
‘When the mussels are ready to harvest, the farmers pull the ropes on board and carefully sort through them, discarding any that are dead or cracked. Any that are too small are reattached to the ropes later. The mussels are usually covered in starfish and seaweed, so we hand-clean them at the processing facility, grade them and bag them up in nets ready for the counter. The trick is to get them to the stores as quickly as possible – we transport them from the sea to the depots and then out for delivery, all within three days.
‘My kids love mussels. I take packs back to them every week and they see it as a treat. They love watching me cook them and getting their hands messy eating them.’
Did you know ...
* Mussels must be alive until cooked, so make sure you eat them on the day of purchase. Throw away shells that are cracked, that don’t open when tapped, or that remain shut after cooking.
* Pull of the ‘beard’ on the outer shell before cooking by giving it a firm tug.
* You can tell a female mussel from a male by its colour: females are orange and males are creamy white.
Want to know more? Watch our video about producing mussels for Tesco and then try one of our delicious mussel recipes.
As featured in Tesco Magazine March 2014.