Cornwall is the perfect place for picking your own Mussels. The huge rocks on our tidal, clean beaches create the perfect home for growing these delectable goodies, which means there are plenty of them. They are one of the most sustainable fish to source in Cornwall and are absolutely delicious.
The rule of thumb is to only collect mussels when the month contains the letter ‘R’ (i.e. not in May, June, July or August). This gives the mussels a chance to breed in the warmer months.
If you don’t live by the beach, head down to your local fish monger and they should have some for you.
North Cornwall has many beautiful beaches and happens to be an absolute hot spot for finding Mussels! Bossiney Haven and Trebarwith, both close to Rocky Valley also have excellent water quality so the mussels there are safe to eat. It’s a good idea to always check the water quality of the beach you are collecting from. You should be able to do this online.
Be sure to check the tide times when planning your mussel collecting adventure-you don’t want to run into any problems! The time to collect mussels is during a low spring tide when the water goes as low as a meter under as the rocks will be exposed with large colonies of delicious mussels. Be aware of what time the tide is coming back in also.
Mussels a little further up the rocks tend to have less grain in them that the ones right down at the bottom near the sand. Ideally you want to collect mussels around 5cm long. Any smaller and they haven’t fully developed and won’t be as tasty.
The first rule of collecting mussels is to only take what you need. An average main size portion would be around 35 mussels, this can vary depending on size of the mussels etc. About 130 serves 5 people nicely.
COOKING THE MUSSELS
Once you’ve collected your fresh mussels, from the beach or the from local fish mongers, the best way to store them is in the bottom/salad drawer of your refrigerator. Simply place them in a large bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or in a bowl of salted cold water, and they will ‘filter’ themselves clean – you want to eliminate as much draft getting to the shellfish as possible.
When you are ready to cook them, start by removing any mud or barnacles that may be stuck to the shells. You can do this easily by simply rubbing handfuls of the mussels under running water or using a knife or some scissors to scrape them off.
It is a little bit of a process, but we think that this makes the end result extra rewardingly delicious! Next, pull out any of the straggly, hairy ‘beards’ attached to the shells – the easiest way is to wiggle them towards the sharper edge of the mussel and they should just break out. Once you have cleaned and de-bearded the mussels, pick out any suspects that have open shells – give them a tap, and if they don’t close quickly afterward, discard them.
There are lots of ways to enjoy mussels and here’s a recipe for the traditional serving of Moules marinières.
Moules Marinières (serves two)
- About 70 mussels
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or finely diced
- 1 glass white wine
- 1 small carton single cream (or crème fraîche)
- Knob of butter and a glug of olive oil (1 tbsp)
- Salt and pepper
- Lots of Parsley
- Fresh Lemon
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan (which has a lid) over a medium heat.
- Add the shallot and soften.
- Add the garlic a few minutes later, so you don’t burn it, then the mussels, wine and thyme.
- Pop the lid on and leave to simmer, keep an eye on the mussels to see when they start to open. This will take around 10–15 minutes.
- Remove the lid and taste the juice to see if it needs seasoning or not, then cream or crème fraîche, just heating through but not cooking. Any mussels that do not open should be discarded and not eaten!
- Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
- Serve with French fries or a warmed, crusty baguette/sourdough bread drizzled with some olive oil.