Mussel Up

Photo: Bec Hudson

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Sustainable and nutrient-rich, these succulent shellfish gems are the perfect addition to our plates.

There’s an under appreciated mighty mollusk that’ deserves our attention and praise: the mussel. This little sea creature isn’t appearing on the menu in Australian households anywhere near as often as it deserves, given their excellent health benefits, bountiful supply and eco-friendly credentials.

Mussels are an excellent source of protein, iron, selenium, iodine, zinc, folate and Omega 3.  They’re low in saturated fat, and they’re sustainably farmed with no negative impact to the environment.

Sea Bounty_02 low res

Photo: Bec Hudson

And yet, we Australians are eating a comparatively minuscule amount of these tasty morsels.  The Australian Mussel Industry Association says we’re eating around 240 g of mussels each per year, while our Kiwi neighbours are devouring around 15 kilograms of mussels each every year. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean Chileans are enjoying up to 9kg each, and 2kg seems to be the right amount to satisfy our amigos in Spain.

With more than 3,000 tonnes of this prize produce coming out of our own backyard every year, sold for between $5 – $12 per kilo, the statistics are difficult to believe.

Australian blue mussels farmed in the deep blue waters along the southern coastline are among the finest in the world.

Lance Whiffen - Sea Bounty Mussels. Photo: Bec HudsonPortarlington mussel farmer Lance Whiffen is one producer who has perfected the art of cultivating these gems from the cool depths of Port Phillip Bay. A family owned business with a 30 year history, Sea Bounty takes pride in harvesting fine quality mussels using modern, environmentally sustainable farming techniques.

Such is the quality of Sea Bounty mussels, world-renowned chef Ben Shewry (of Melbourne restaurant, Attica) hails Lance Wiffen as an unsung hero in our community who ought to be celebrated. Rene Redzepi, head chef of Copenhagen’s famed Noma, is also a fan of Sea Bounty mussels, deeming them ‘exquisite’ on a recent trip to Melbourne.

Sea Bounty mussels are shipped to restaurants in Melbourne and sold in supermarkets all over Australia, and enjoyed as far afield as Hong Kong.  In 2014, the company picked up a sustainability award in The Age Good Food Guide Awards.

What makes these mussels so fresh, succulent and tender?  I asked Lance, the mussel master himself, to explain.

“It’s the deep waters in which they grow,” Lance says.  “The clean water that comes in with the change of tide in Port Phillip Bay brings in lots of nutrients from the surrounding land mass.

There’s no protein on earth more sustainable than shellfish. And while most seafood sectors are fully maximized or declining, mussel aqua culture is growing and meeting the criteria of environmentally sustainable development.

 

THE MUSSEL MYTH

One of the biggest myths about mussels is that we shouldn’t eat ones that don’t open.  Australian Seafood CRC research shows that 73% of us throw away mussels that don’t open thinking they shouldn’t be eaten, that’s 370 tonnes of perfectly good mussels being thrown away each year.

English cookbooks were right in saying this because mussels were dug out of mud in estuaries. meaning the ones that wouldn’t open were full of mud and dead. But this doesn’t stand for the mussels we produce. They’re grown in mid water and are all young mussels. They cook at different rates so if they don’t open, often it’s because they’re not cooked, or the protein has cooked too quickly.

This article was originally published in Medibank Be. Issue 14 Summer 2015/2016

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Zara is founder and editor of Oh My Goodness. A certified holistic health coach, National Breast Cancer Foundation speaker and Bupa health influencer award finalist, Zara is passionate about making it as easy and fun for people to lead a healthy lifestyle. She’s appeared on The Project and Today Show; her recipes have been featured on I Quit Sugar, Sport Luxe, and Show and Tell Online; and she’s a regular contributor to Medibank’s Be. Magazine and Fairfax health online.

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