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Mussels are delicious and environmentally friendly

Mussels are among the most popular shellfish and probably the most widely available. In many areas, like the German Wattenmeer, mussels are not only a source of food for people and many animals and birds, they also perform an essential environmental task. Mussels are filter feeders and they filter seawater on a grand scale. Unlike other mussel species, they don’t live hidden away in the sand; instead they live in huge colonies, called mussel banks.

At home on the mussel banks

Around 100,000 tonnes of mussels are harvested from the North Sea every year. Most of them have been grown on artificial mussel banks made up of a rows of posts. Each mussel attaches itself to a post by means of a strand of protein, called the byssus thread.

A glimpse into the life of a mussel

In spring and summer female mussels eject clouds of millions and millions of eggs into the water around them. At the same time, the male mussels eject their semen into the water. This type of procreation is the reason why mussels live in huge colonies. Once fertilised, the eggs drift around as plankton in the open sea. They turn into minute larvae which then develop into tiny young mussels, about three millimetres long, over a period of about four weeks. The young mussels drift until they are able to anchor themselves to a convenient place near the coast by means of a byssus thread. At two years old, the mussels are about 5 centimetres long.

The main season for mussels is from September
to February

The old saying that you should only eat shellfish in months with an “r”, ie from September to April, makes a lot of sense. One reason is that in the warm summer months there are algae blooms in the sea and these can form dangerous toxins. Because the mussels filter so much seawater, the toxins accumulate in their bodies and can reach levels dangerous to human health. People talk of shellfish poisoning. The other reason, which is no longer very meaningful, is that in the past inadequate cold chains and transport options meant that mussels could not be transported safely during the warm summer months.

Healthy and versatile

Mussels not only taste wonderful, they’re also good for you. For a start, they’re low calorie: 100 grams deliver little more than 72 kcal. Protein content is around 9 grams, fat is only 1.2 grams. And 100 grams of mussels contain 0.7 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. 


There are dozens of ways to prepare mussels, including a classical dish with white wine, lots of black pepper and chilli, garlic and chives, various Asian styles or in a paella.

Source: FreeCooks