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A bivalve mollusk that has been enjoyed by Europeans for thousands of years but Americans have only recently begun to appreciate them. The blue mussel is the most common species available in the United States. It has a bluish black shell containing flesh that is ivory to bright orange, which can be eaten raw or cooked. The meat of the mussel has a moderately firm texture with a sweet flavor similar to lobster and can be found in food stores that are well stocked with a variety of fish or in fish markets. Mussels are harvested along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, clinging to sea walls, rocks, gravel, and any other surface to which they can attache themselves. The U.S. supplements the supply of mussels with cultured, farm grown mussels, which have cleaner, thinner shells and a flesh that is plumper and more consistent in size. Wild mussels must be thoroughly cleaned to eliminate the possibility of paralytic poisoning caused by toxic blooms of algae, which is a result of the pollution they are exposed to. To Clean: Run under cold water to rinse thoroughly and scrub shells with a wire brush to remove dirt. Remove any barnacles with a small sharp knife and pull off any seaweed fibers that are sticking out of or on the shell. Throw out broken shells and any that are not closed tightly. To Grill: Open mussels before grilling by steaming above simmering water or broth for approximately 3 minutes. If some do not open, discard them. Mussels are grilled in their shells.

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