Rope-grown 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. The meat content 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.
You should only eat mussels in a month with an “R” in. Mussels spawn in the spring months and as such their meat content is much lower, they’re much better in season. 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 a bed of seaweed. Discard any that do not open. There are classic recipes such as moules marinières and moules provençale, 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.