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West Coast Mussels


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We spent the weekend on the island, sans bebes even, and while sitting on the deck in June like temperatures (memo to self, throw another tire on the fire, anything I can do to accelerate global warming I'll do, yeah they say Britian'll turn into Siberia, it'll be nicely offset by BC going Socal) watching the waves crashing over the rocks I wondered why no one eats the mussels on the rocks. Too hard to pry off? Pollution? Too difficult to clean? They taste bad? Too small without enough meat?

Why do you never see anyone gathering mussels from the beach? Particularly on the west coast of the island. My love of moules is only exceeded by my love of free stuff, on the surface it seems to be a match made in heaven, or at least in Sooke, which considering the weather this weekend was pretty damn close.

THere's got to be some compelling reason. Hell, look at all the people that risk pitching head first into the brier patch just to get some free blackberries in late summer, mussels are about a million times better than blackbery pie.

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TOTALLY agree Keith. I read "The Apprentice" by Jacques Pepin and all he talks about is "hunting" for ingredients around his cottage in the mountains - fish and frogs from the creek, mushrooms from the forests, clams and lobster from the ocean... But people around here don't do this anymore. Must be a fear of pollution, red tide, etc. Spent time on Texada Island a few years ago, and enjoyed many many fresh local prawns almost on a daily basis. The. Best.

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IMO only the ones that remain under water at low tide are suitable for eating. They should also be away from docks and piers. So I would imagine they would be good eating during the winter, fall and spring if harvested from an isolated, underwater location.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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The underwater thing puts a crimp in my plans.

And do you know for certain about the low tide rule or is it speculation/a gut feeling (which you'd probably experience from eating a bad mussel)? We've collected oysters that dry at low tide many times.

Edited by Keith Talent (log)
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It is a gut feeling based on a little bit of experience with shellfish harvesting when I was young. We would always wait for the very low tides before harvesting oysters. This was a bit dicey though because the lowest tides come during the warmest weather. I also believe that oysters can survive longer un submerged then mussels.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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We need to settle this. We need someone travelling to the island to head onto the rocks at Chesterman beach, gather up a couple pounds of mussels, clean cook and eat and then we see if they still post. Isn't Andrew planning a trip to the island? What about Tofino, he's always there. Stovetop is a short hop away, no? Someone needs to get this done. Have a stomach pump handy just in case.

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Believe me I am no expert on this. Those are just guidelines I would use. Mrs Coop and I spent our Honeymoon at The Captain Whidbey Inn and ate copious amounts of Penn Cove mussells harvested from in front of our room. This was in 1982 before anyone even thought about eating west coast mussels. I'm not sure why we don't eat more local mussels.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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OK, here's an explanation from the BC Shellfish Growers:

In BC, efforts at mussel culture with the native Mytilus trosullus have been thwarted by both duck predation and massive natural summer mortality before reaching marketable size. A pilot project was carried out in the early 1980's to determine the potential for growing the blue mussel, M. edulis. It met with limited success. Problems of summer mortality, weak byssal attachment and losses due to handling and shipping were the main obstacles to successful culture. Those problems are slowly being overcome and now M. edulis and M. galloprovincialis are being cultured on a small scale.

Website is here: BC Shellfish Growers

Cheers,

Anne

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We went on a family vacation when I was in grade 3 and I remember spending an afternoon digging clams, only to see the Red Tide warning sign in the area when my bucket was full. I suspect mussels are similarly affected, at least in certain areas. I wouldn't want to risk getting a stomach ache (or worse) for some free sea food.

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This is not just a West Coast phenomenon as my wife and I lived in Cornwall (UK) for a couple of years and we used to go down and pick the fantastic mussels off the rocks at low tide and steam them for dinner. We ate them every weekend for two years without any problems (year round) but the local people thought we were nuts!

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That's interesting Barolo. it'd have probably made more sense if I'd not skipped out of Biology 11 so frequently during high schoool. Strangely Fisheries Canada doesn't discuss mussels on their web page Might as well look, it's your tax dollars paying for it.

And I didn't know that Penn Cove mussels were from Whidbey Island, how do they compare to the east coast jet setters we usually see?

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Excellent post barolo. "Whidbey Island" mussels was what I was thinking of - though not technically "local BC".

I will continue to enjoy my moules frites, though with illusions of supporting local industry shattered. Maybe BCSGA will change that soon.

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There's also BC Honey Mussels now appearing on menus. They are from somewhere around Quadra Island. I don't know what species they are. I know some people who work in shellfish aquaculture, so I'll try to check it out and report back.

Cheers,

Anne

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I notice that Jamie was ahead of us all. From the Jan/Feb Vancouver Magazine:

"Wild B.C. Honey mussels, from B.C. Mussel Co.’s Discovery Island grounds, are best found at C Restaurant."

Cheers,

Anne

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We need to settle this. We need someone travelling to the island to head onto the rocks at Chesterman beach, gather up a couple pounds of mussels, clean cook and eat and then we see if they still post. Isn't Andrew planning a trip to the island? What about Tofino, he's always there. Stovetop is a short hop away, no? Someone needs to get this done. Have a stomach pump handy just in case.

Last year i went to nootka island with some fools who left our cooking pots below the high-tide line. The water came up when we were sleeping and our pots and their bowls floated away. This was the first night. We pulled mussels off the rocks at different levels and different sizes - it was about mid-to-low-tide. We baked them on hot rocks from the fire. Ready in 30 seconds. The smallest were the nicest. i'm still alive. I think if you just use common sense you will be fine - don't pull off the higher up gnarly-ass ones that sit in the sun all day, and don't harvest off the tires in the dock at False Creek.

The next day i made cous-cous in a Suntory whiskey bottle that washed over from Japan- "For relaxing times its'Suntory time". Tune in next week when i wrestle bears for blueberries to make a refreshing coulis.

3WC

Drew Johnson

bread & coffee

i didn't write that book, but i did pass 8th grade without stress. and i'm a FCAT for sure.

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One of my most memorable summer vacations with my family was down in Lincoln City, OR. I doubt the mussels down there are too different from the ones in BC. I was an early riser and I went and chipped away at the mussels growing on the rocks during low tide. By the time I got back to the cottage with my big bucketful, my mom would be up and ready to soak then cook them for lunch. Those were the best tasting mussels I've ever had although I did build up quite an appetite from harvesting the mussels and shivering in the cold Oregon mornings.

On a related note, for camping and oyster enthusiasts, my family used to also go camping in Washington state and a favorite activity was oyster picking. I was usually the designated shucker and my usual routine was shuck 3 eat 1, slowing down the eating after I'd had about 8 smaller ones. Why Washington vs. Vancouver Island? Cheaper ferry rates and we were never sure about rules and regulations on Vancouver Island.

Here's a link if anyone wanted to know the limits for various shellfish in BC: Shellfish Table

Edited by Rhea_S (log)
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When I bought the mussels at Lobsterman - they were labelled "BC Mussels". The also had PEI mussels - but I recall that the BC Mussels were cheaper and the guy helping me out said that they were better because they did not have to be shipped accross the country.

I just called the Lobsterman and they had Gallo's mussels for sale that are farmed off of Cortez island but they were of Mediterranean stock. This is the kind that I have been purchasing for years and the results have always been tasty.

Barolo - thanks for the great information. I guess true local BC Mussel stock is very hard to find. I wonder where Chambar sources their mussels from?

Great thread on local products.

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I just called the Lobsterman and they had Gallo's mussels for sale that are farmed off of Cortez island but they were of Mediterranean stock.  This is the kind that I have been purchasing for years and the results have always been tasty.

Thanks for the update on Lobster Man products.

Cheers,

Anne

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When you read the link Barolo posted about the cultivation of mussels, and the work and hauling socks up and seeding flats and a whole lot of other work that I didn't really understand, then add the expense of airfreight, it's a wonder that they're still so cheap.

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The mussels most commonly grown out here are the Mytulis galloprovincial and in a very small part, the eastern variety Mytulis edulis.

The main reason for the lack of native mussels (Mytulis trossulus) is the presence of a disease that is endemic to these waters and those of Puget Sound and annually kills off the adult breeder size mussels of both the native trossulus and the non-native Baltic mussels. This generally happens during the winter during these species breeding seasons and prevents large scale aquaculturing of these shellfish. High natural predation also lends a hand but to a lesser scale.

The best B.C. Mussels I have gotten have been from Manson's Landing on Cortes Island from Below Sea Level Oyster Company.

David Nikaleva and his crew also produce the sweet Gorge Inlet oyster that is found on fine oyster bars here.

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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