Consumers who place high value on natural foods will be reassured to know that mussels are grown in a clean marine environment and that “mussel processing” means simply giving them a wash in sea water, says chief Ross Munro.
Munro, Atlantic Canada chef of the year and president of Tacti-Cul Food Consultants, says mussels are the perfect example of a natural food product.
A new series of videos explains exactly how green this sustainable mussel farming process really is. Filmed by the Mussel Industry Council off the coast and in the processing plants of Prince Edward Island, the videos follow the crews who collect the seed, set the longlines and socks, harvest the tons of mussels and clean and package the product for shipping to market.
“There is no cleaner way of nurturing, growing and harvesting aquaculture,” says Munro.
“I have had mussels on my menus ever since I was first put in charge of menu development in any establishment I have worked in.”
Part one of the Mussel Industry Council’s new video series addresses mussel seed collection and socking.
The mussel larvae are collected in the clean waters off the bays and inlets, left to grow on suspended ropes and then sized and placed in “socks” to continue growing.
“We collect the seed from the water,” says local mussel grower Barry Campbell. “We sock it. We put it back in the water. And grow it.”
The video scenes demonstrate the all-natural process and show that mussel farming is indeed hard work.
In part two of the series, the mussel longline system is explained: socks full of mussel seed are suspended on lines, keeping the mussels clean and free of grit.
“Mussel lines also provide a natural reef for other species to interact with and grow, and find shelter from predators,” said Campbell.
Harvest is another physically demanding job which takes place about 18 months after the socks are first set out. Once harvested the mussels are delivered directly to plants across P.E.I. where processing is a very straightforward task, almost as simple as “rinse, repeat.”
The beards or byssus threads are removed, the shells are cleaned and polished and off they go to market, ready to put in the pot and steam.
“If sustainable and natural is your preference as is mine, you simply can’t beat how and where this amazing morsel of food grows,” says chef Munro.
“Prince Edward Island is home to some of the most pristine water in the world. The minerals and nutrients delivered by our tides create a natural environment that makes mussels just about the best thing going.”