By: Leanne Ely
One of my favorite summer suppers involves the delicious and mighty blue mussel. Inexpensive to buy and quick and easy to cook, I love making a meal out of a plate of steamed mussels.
Before I get into the nutritional profile of these bivalves, it’s important for you to know that mussels are one of the most sustainable forms of seafood you can find. While I normally tell you not to buy farmed fish, in the case of mussels, the “buy wild” rule doesn’t apply.
That’s because mussels are farmed in a very sustainable manner. The farmer doesn’t need to interfere with nature at all to grow and harvest mussels. Mussels grow on special ropes that the farmer puts in the water during spawning season. These little guys would naturally grow along the bottom of the sea or on a rock if the farmer didn’t set down those ropes.
After the mussels grow large enough, the farmer puts them in mesh sleeves or “socks” and returns them to the water where they feed on their natural diet in their natural habitat. When they’ve reached maturity, the mussels are harvested. The farming of mussels leaves zero environmental footprint.
Most of our cultivated mussels in the US come from New England and in Canada, Prince Edward Island is the nation’s leading mussel producer. In fact, you see PEI blue mussels on restaurant menus all over North America.
Now, what do mussels have going for them in the nutrition department? Let’s take a look at the highlights:
Protein. Mussels are extremely high in protein. A 1-pound serving of mussels contains the same amount of protein as a 6-ounce steak.
Iron. A serving of mussels provides you with 22% of your daily required amount of iron.
B12. A single 3-ounce serving of mussels provides you with a whopping 20.4 mg of Vitamin B12. Three times the amount your body requires per day.
Low in fat and calories, mussels are an excellent source of animo acids, antioxidants and omega-e fatty acids. They contain healthy amounts of vitamin C, selenium, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, riboflavin, thiamine and folate.
The most common varieties of mussels you’ll find in North America are the blue mussel and the larger Mediterranean mussel. Blue mussels are the tastiest of the two varieties, so look for those.
To cook mussels you simply need to place them in a stock pot with about an inch of liquid (white wine or beer work well) and steam them until they open. Discard any mussels whose shells didn’t open during the cooking process. Those guys were dead so you don’t want to eat them.
What a great way to switch things up on the summer dinner table by serving delicious and nutritious mussels.
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