Mussels are a popular, affordable shellfish that humans have been eating for years. The molluscs mostly have shells longer than they are wide, which vary in colour from dark-blue to black or brown.

Mussels come from saltwater and freshwater habitats, although the saltwater species are preferred in cuisine nowadays. They are delicate in texture and softer and smaller than clams. An excellent source of selenium and B12, they are cooked and served in many different ways across the globe.

How do you prepare mussels?

Mussels should be alive when you cook them. Rinse them carefully to remove any sand or mud. Then lightly tap the shells and discard of any that remain open or are damaged. Live mussels will close tightly. It is recommended that you remove the 'beard' - this is the sticky membrane that they use to attach to surfaces. Pull firmly between your thumb and finger - a dry paper towel may help to grip. Scrape away any barnacles on the shell.  

How do you cook mussels?

Mussels can be roasted, steamed, smoked, boiled, roasted, barbequed or pan-fried. 

To steam, cover the bottom of the pan in water, heat, then add the mussels and cover. Keeping at a high temperature, cook for five to seven minutes. When steam is pouring out from the lid, they are done. Mussel shells should open when cooked. Leave to rest for one minute before serving.  

To grill mussels,  melt unsalted butter in a small pot with herbs over a grill on medium heat. Place cleaned mussels on the grill evenly and put a halved lemon on the grill. Grill for about five minutes until opened. Finally, transfer the mussels with tongs to a platter (removing any unopened ones). Pour butter over and season to taste. 

What is mussels mariniere

Moules Marinière (Mussels Mariner-Style) is a classic dish originating from Normandy, where the mussels are cooked in a white wine sauce with cream, onion and thyme. 

To cook mussels in white wine, heat olive oil then add shallots and garlic. Add wine and boil for a minute. Add mussels to the pan, season and cover, cooking for three to four minutes. Shake the pan every now and again. When cooked, serve and pour over the white wine sauce.  

Other opular accompaniments for mussels include melted butter, garlic, crusty bread and - would you believe it - fries! Moules-frites are a much-loved bistro dish, originating in Belgium.  Cook the mussels in a white wine sauce (mentioned earlier) and serve in a separate dish,  so as not to make the chips soggy.

What is mussel poisoning?

Due to filter feeding, mussels from some coastlines can be poisonous to humans. While the toxins of the microorganisms they feed on are not harmful to the mussel, they can cause serious illness if consumed by human beings. Shellfish poisoning usually occurs in summer months, with produce from warmer waters. Symptoms of shellfish poisoning include but are not limited to: numbness or tingling in the mouth, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.  Someone with symptoms of shellfish poisoning should be taken to an emergency department. 

Mussels recipes: