January’s Fish of the Month is farmed mussels.

Aquaculture, the practice of fish farming, is the world’s fastest growing food industry. It is easy to see why choosing farmed seafood that is healthy for both the environment and humans is so imperative! The distinctive qualities and farming methods of mussels make them a top choice for sustainable aquaculture.

Cultured mussels were discovered in the 13th century by accident. Legend has it a hungry shipwrecked sailor positioned wood poles and nets in the water to catch fish. Upon his return to the traps, hundreds of mussels were naturally suspended to the poles underwater!  Today, ninety percent of the world’s mussels are farmed, the majority in similar suspended systems.

So what makes mussels eco-mazing? Harvesting mussels from these off-bottom systems does not cause seafloor damage, while their sedentary lifestyle pose little risk of escape to outside populations. Even more, they are accustomed to a densely populated habitat which means farmers do not practice the use of harmful antibiotics to keep the mussels healthy.

Mussels enjoy their dinnertime just as much as the Right Bite team, but they eat in a very unique way. Instead of taking wild fish from the ocean for fishmeal, mussels feed by filtering surplus phytoplankton and nutrients from the water. Farmers benefit by reducing their production costs, while mussels improve the water quality of coastal ecosystems and prevent dead zones. Talk about sustainable!

Raising mussels in suspended systems has stood the test of time without causing environmental damage. Try out Curried Carrot Mussels to support farmed mussels for another 800 years and beyond.

Curried Carrot Mussels
Serves 4

- 3 lbs. farmed mussels, scrubbed
- 2 tbsp. oil
- 3 tbsp. ginger, peeled and minced
- 3 medium shallots, minced
- 16 oz. canned or fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 3 tbsp. curry powder
- 2 c. carrot juice
- 1/2 c. cilantro, chopped and divided
- Lime wedges

1. Close all mussels by lightly tapping shell and set aside. Discard mussel if it does not close

2. Heat oil in wide pot over medium-high heat

3. Sauté ginger and shallots in pot

4. Add tomatoes, cayenne pepper and curry, cook for 1-2 minutes

5. Add carrot juice and 1/4 cup cilantro, bring to boil

6. Cook broth until reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes.

7. Add mussels and cover, stirring occasionally

8. Cook until mussel shells open, about 4 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking

9. Place mussels in bowl, spoon in broth and garnish with remaining cilantro and lime wedges

Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation