Mussels are an excellent source of protein and leaner than beef, making them beneficial to your diet. When cooked, the shells of the mussels will pop open, making it easy to access the edible meat. Mussels are eaten steamed, sauteed, baked or grilled. Like oysters and clams, they are served in their shells atop salads or pasta dishes or garnished on the half-shell as an appetizer.
Buy freshwater mussels from a source that harvests them legally and from unpolluted waters. When exposed to air, mussels close their shells; thus any air-exposed open mussel is dead. Purchase mussels alive, making sure the shells are closed and not chipped.
Discard any open or chipped mussels. Using cold water, scrub the mussels free of all dirt, barnacles and other impurities. Remove the beard—the hairy skirts—from each mussel either by gripping and pulling them or with a sharp knife.
Cook the mussels in a saucepan, in the oven or on a grill. Discard any unopened shells. Add the mussels, in their shells, to your favorite soup, salad or linguine.
Using a small fork, scrape the mussel meat from its shell. The mussel will detach easily from the shell with a slight pull of the fork. Discard empty shells.
Allow 1 lb. of shell mussels per person for a main course, and ½ lb. for an appetizer or side.
To avoid chewy and overcooked mussels, add mussels to a recipe before serving. Do not continue to cook mussels after they have been initially steamed, grilled or baked.
Mussels bought alive must be eaten within two to three days of purchase.
Due to bacteria and parasites, avoid eating raw mussels if you have liver disease, hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. Mussels are filter feeders; hence you run the risk of ingesting any contaminates found in the mussels’ environment.
Vanessa Allison has been writing since 2002. Her work is published in regional print sources, such as "East Coast Ink" and "Klutch," as well as the online skateboard switchmagazine.com. Allison received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.