Blogs » Jeff Brown's blog

Facts about Mussels

Did you know?

Although some mussels can live for up to 50 years, the brown mussel that we find along the east coast of SA only lives about 2 years.

Pearls are cultivated in freshwater mussels.

You can tell the difference between wild and cultured mussels by looking for the dull bluish colour, white erosion marks and attached barnacles of the former. Cultured mussels have shiny blue-black shells.

The mussel’s arch enemy is the dog whelk, which bores a hole through its shell and sucks out the soft parts.

The mussel’s ‘beard’ is known as the byssus. It is used by the mussel to attach itself to surfaces with the aid of a secreted adhesive cement.
Before preparing a mussel for cooking and eating, the byssus should either by cut off or pulled out with a sharp tug, then discarded.

Mussels are usually prepared by steaming over a medium heat for about six minutes or until the shells open.

Because mussels contain liquid that emerges during the steaming process, you don’t have to add water when you’re steaming fresh mussels.

You shouldn’t be concerned if a batch of mussels is of different colours: pale white meat indicates a male mussel, and a warmer, more orangey colour, a female.

Mussels are a good substitute for clams or oysters in a recipe.
Mussel juice is delicious and can be drunk hot; it’s particularly tasty when mixed with a little melted butter, and can also be consumed chilled with tomato juice.

Although clams and oysters are sometimes eaten raw, mussels are usually cooked. (Note: Except in Africa, where the women and children often eat raw mussels on the rocks.)

While wild mussels need quite thorough cleaning, cultivated mussels  need only be rinsed in cold water.

Mussels are delicious when pan-fried, too. To pan-fry, heat the pan, melt some butter then add the mussel meat and sauté until brown – two to three minutes.

Mussels rely on fish to carry their eggs in their gills during part of their life cycle.

Mussels have been cultivated for almost 800 years in Europe, and have been used as a food source for more than 2,000 years.

When buying mussels, the shells should be bright, undamaged and closed. Open mussels should be given a squeeze and a tap – if they close they are still alive; if not they are dead and unfit for consumption.

Mussels affix themselves to substrata such as rocks by their byssal threads or ‘beards’. These are produced as a liquid, which sets in contact with seawater.

The byssal threads are so adhesive they can even cling to Teflon; scientists are trying to develop a mussel-based adhesive for use in eye surgery.

Mussel meat is rich in protein, and has much less fat, many more mineral nutrients and a quarter of the calories of beef.


Nutrition Highlights
Mussels (cooked, moist heat), 3 oz. (84.9g)
Calories: 146
Protein: 20g
Carbohydrate: 6.3g
Total Fat: 3.8g
Fiber: 0.0g
*Excellent source of: Selenium (76mcg), and Vitamin B12 (20mcg)
*Good source of: Zinc (2.3mg), and Folate (64mcg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value. mussel white, female orange







Male mussels are white, and females are orange.
(Photo: Glen Philips)


Very interesting! Could you tell me how long the Mussels take to reach an edible size ie. 7-10cm that we get off rocks in the Port Alfred - Kenton area. We also find the odd "huge" one of around 14/15cm, how old would these be? Thanx

It takes about 2 years to get to edible size. It's hard to say how long it takes to reach the size you mention, as there are many variables... like nutrient concentrations in the water, wave action or currents, etc... As it says in the article, mussels can live up to 50 years.

Interesting post indeed...they are good for the health and there are other amazing facts about the one about the pearl. :)

What is the purpose of a mussel

Can you tell me about mussel breeding? Our mussels in Hermanus are covered in tiny babies at the moment - so much so that you can't even see the adult mussels! How long will this last? When can I harvest mussels again? Thanks for the interesting article.

hi, I have harvested fresh mussels from the Gansbaai area, and we are getting brown mussel meat and a peach colour mussel meat. The brown mussel meat does not look very appealing to eat. Is there anything wrong with it? Can you explain the difference. Thanks

We find the corparate destruction and exploitation with mussel beds, seals of nam etcetc, when God told us to take care of creation, some do but most just watch idly as destruction runs... just a thought karl

Are the mussels by kalk bay harbour edible? I am on a mission to make a black mussel potjie!!

Pearls are cultivated in oysters, not in mussels!!.

Really. The article was about mussels. "Cultured pearls can be farmed using two very different groups of bivalve mollusk: the freshwater river mussels, and the saltwater pearl oysters"     -

if you want to blast something on the web, educate yourself and make sure you have your facts correct. Don't give halfcocked information.

You're a really special snowflake, Andrew Davies. lol

I urgently need to know the effect dead black mussel shells have on the environment. Will the excessive removal of the shells have any impact in the case of a very severe storm? Does it form a barrier between the sea and the land and therefore needs to be left alone?

Hi I was wondering wild mussels that has a pink purplish color layer on them are they safe to eat? And can you put them in the pot with this on?

We are interested in starting a fish farm in Durban, using Tilapia and aquaponics. We are also interested in doing fresh water mussel farming in tanks but do not have enough information about the species name; where to get the mussels to begin - do's and don'ts - infact all info regarding fresh water mussel farming or even fresh water prawn farming will help.

I got a question about muscles how big do they have to be before you can eat them or does it matter

Add new comment

Total views: 96,635