Oregon Mussels

Small bed of mussels on a rock
Small bed of mussels on a rock

Another tasty treat that is easy to go out and harvest is the common mussel that grow on almost any rocky outcropping on the coast.  All you need to harvest them is a pair of sturdy gloves and a shellfish permit ($7 per person).  The current limit in Oregon for mussels is 72 per person.  Before you even head to the beach make sure there is no closures for on the coast for bacterial toxins.  Since mussels are filter feeders they will pick up anything that is floating in the water.  These toxins can be deadly so always make sure that harvesting is open.  The hotline that you can call is 800-448-2474.  You can also check on the ODFW website for a recent list of closures. Stay away from the red tide!!

There are two different species of mussels that you will find in Oregon,  Mytilus edulis and some Mytilus Californianus. They adhere themselves to rocky outcroppings of basalt, which dot the beaches through the central coast, and become more common as you head southward toward California. My most recent batch came from the jetty in Florence at the mouth of the Siuslaw river. In your search for a good spot to get mussels please be aware that there are several marine sanctuary along the coast where it is illegal to remove any animal. Mussels along the open ocean will have a different taste then those along an estuary.  Try them both and see the taste difference.

After you find a good place to harvest your mussels you then have to figure out how you are going to remove them from the rocks.  A cheap knife is a good way to cut the threads that hold them to rocks.  You can also simply pull them from the rocks if you would like but after a couple dozen you might be a little tired of pulling on them.  Don’t use a crowbar or axe to get them off.  You will do more damage to the mussel bed then you want to.  Mussels can be harvested at any low tide.  Be watchful of the ocean while you are harvesting them.  You do not want to get hit by a sneaker wave and pulled off the rocks into the ocean.

Mussels right after they opened from their steam bath
Mussels right after they opened from their steam bath

Now that you have your harvest it is time to cook them up.  The easiest way to cook them is to scrub up the mussels to remove any loose pieces that might be on it. Then put them in a steamer basket and cook for about five minutes.  If they do not open within five minutes they may be dead, and you should throw them out.  Eating bad shellfish can make you extremely sick.  After they are cooked use a fork to remove them from the shells and prep them for eating.  There are a lot of varieties in how you steam them up.  Adding a cup of white wine and some shallots to the steam water will give a great flavor to the mussels.  I like to steam them plain and dip them in garlic butter.

Mussels in a garlic butter sauce
Mussels in a garlic butter sauce

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