Today I had the good fortune to discover our beach had an extremely low tide that divulged a bounty of fresh wild mussels clinging to rocks near the shore. I had gone to Sand Beach with my bf and our dogs at the end of the day to get some fresh air and exercise. We’ve had a spate of marvelous Indian Summer days this week (last week was 37 degree nights, this week we had 80 degree days) and we’ll be leaving for winter digs soon. Any excuse to get out and enjoy is always welcome! Anyway, I had never harvested wild mussels before. And since I wasn’t prepared with a bag or vessel, I used my turned up t-shirt hem to carry my load o’ mussels back home.
Once there, I called my friends Caty & Captain Frazier of The Lobster Shack to find out if it were safe to eat these wild caught mussels and how to cook them. Captain Frazier said that if the mussels come from near the lowest tide line, are nearly black in color, and were attached to rocks before I pulled them off then they should be safe to eat. I was thrilled to hear that though some of them had barnacles on them, they would still be good to eat! The Fraziers recommended cooking the mussels in a covered wok with olive oil, garlic, and favorite spices tossing them with a spoon until the shells open wide.
Not having a wok handy, I used a large pot. I first cleaned the mussels very well with water to get all the beach sand off them. They didn’t have long beards like most mussels and I gather that is because these are wild caught. Caty Frazier said that most mussels you get from fisherman and seafood companies are cultivated mussels that are grown on a string, believe it or not. The wild ones attach themselves to rocks.
I used garlic flavored olive oil–just enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Then I added some balsamic vinegar (I never measure anything when I cook but I gave it a healthy shake of the bottle). I tossed in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a few slices of fresh ginger. Then kept stirring the mussels every few minutes and keeping the pot covered so they could steam open. It didn’t take very long for that savory broth to fill my kitchen with a most auspicious aroma! I served the mussels with sweet local corn on the cob and a tossed green salad (all of the veggies from The Stonington Farmers Market). Is life good? You bet it is! When your feng shui is in alignment, good things happen. Enjoy the little things and the rest will fall into place.