Can You Eat Small Mussels?

A mussel is a broad term for several families of bivalve mollusks, which live in freshwater and saltwater environments. Clams, oysters, and scallops are examples of mollusks. Understanding how to consume small mussels will make it simpler to prepare and take pleasure in your pasta dishes, casseroles, soups, and other recipes that call for this marine component.

No matter what kind of mussel you eat, you must always ensure it is small enough to be safely consumed. Even though mussels are great for your skin and heart, they come with several hazards, including mercury, and can be lethal if you have specific allergies.

Small mussels, primarily farmed mussels, are one of the most sustainable proteins you can buy. Small mussels are great for the environment and a healthy food source for the body. Because small mussels are a suitable source of vitamin B12, low in fat, and a good supply of iron, small mussels are a superfood that you should be aware of and add to your shopping list.

Is It Possible To Eat Small Mussels?

The meat of small mussels is entirely edible. You can dip it in a broth in a formal setting or sip the entire mussel out of the shell without any tools at home or in a casual environment. Further, you can serve it on the half shell, or you can break them open with your fingers. However, the amount of meat primarily depends on the size and type of small mussel.

A mussel’s byssus, or beard, is a mass of elastic fibers that hold the mussel to solid surfaces. A unique gland in the mussel’s foot produces them. The beard isn’t harmful or inedible but has a very unpleasant taste that most people would not like. The debearding process of small mussels can take up to 15 minutes per pound.

You should not consume the shell of small mussels as it is solid and can be toxic. The shell is the exterior piece of the mussel that you must break open to reach the inside and consists of two parts. Inside of the shell is a thin membrane called a mantle that makes calcium from the water to create the shell. Furthermore, the small tendon-like hinge that joins the top and bottom shells is not edible.

Health Benefits Of Eating Mussels

Mussels have been consumed worldwide for thousands of years due to their multiple health benefits. Mussels, high in omega-three fatty acids and many critical elements, are an excellent addition to your spicy seafood broth or pasta. The following are some great health benefits of eating mussels:

  • High protein – A cup of mussels contains 18 grams of protein, nearly 30% of the recommended daily average for an adult. Mussels and other shellfish are a good source of protein and include all the necessary amino acids. Protein helps your general health by creating muscle, boosting your immune system, strengthening bones, and repairing injuries.
  • Heart health – Being high in omega-three fatty acids contributes to a healthy heart. According to an American Heart Association study, omega-3 fatty acids have cardio-protective properties, particularly those found in fish and shellfish. As a result, they assist in lowering the risk of irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, and sudden death from heart disease.
  • Skincare – Seafood is good for your skin because it rejuvenates skin cells. Seafood contains anti-inflammatory properties and can help rejuvenate dead skin cells. Therefore, seafood can aid in treating skin illnesses such as psoriasis and eczema. In addition, green-lipped mussel extract supplements can promote skin suppleness and reduce aging.

Different types of small mussels:

Mussel types:Environments:Appearances:Sizes:
Zebra musselFreshwaterStriped pattern2 inches
Rabbit’s foot musselFreshwaterYellowish or olive4 inches
Blue musselWorldwideBlue, purple or brown4 inches
Green musselMuddy and medium salty waterLight gray or green3 – 4 inches
Black musselSalty water and quiet baysShiny black and wears away to blue at the base4 inches

Health Risks Of Eating Mussels

Although mussels have a lot of benefits and are delicious to eat, they also have a lot of health risks that can cause serious harm to you. Always make sure your mussels are not dead as dead mussels deteriorate and increase your risk of poising, diseases, and other health problems such as:

  • Mercury – Most people avoid shellfish when hearing they contain mercury; however, eating up to 12 ounces a week should not harm your health. Mussels contain very little mercury, and you would have to eat a lot to cause harm. Therefore, you should limit yourself to two to three servings of low-mercury fish or shellfish each week.
  • Allergies – There are many people globally with an allergy to shellfish. Further, most people are unaware of it. If you are allergic, always carry an EpiPen with you and be careful when going to a restaurant and eating out. Allergy symptoms generally start within minutes to an hour lookout for any hives, itchy skin, or nasal stuffiness.
  • Shellfish poisoning – Eating shellfish during a red tide can cause shellfish poisoning paralysis. The first symptom is gastrointestinal distress followed by muscle paralysis. The effects resolve in 2-3 days, but in worse cases, it can last up to a week.

How To Eat Mussels

The only edible part of the mussel is the meat inside the shell, and other unknown particles are not to be consumed and may be toxic. Chefs use fresh and saltwater mussels in their dishes, but eating freshwater mussels may pose more risks than saltwater. There are 4 points to be considered before eating mussels, pre-existing conditions, shell condition, smell, and time of year.

After you have determined the mussel is safe to eat and poses no health risks, you will have to clean it. Be sure to eat the mollusk within two days of buying it and store them in the refrigerator. Then, wash them by holding them under running water and using a thin bristled brush to remove all the barnacles and dirt from the shell. Next, remove the beard and discard any damaged or open mussels as they are unsafe to eat.

Next, you must decide on your dish and understand how to cook your mussels. Some may call for steaming, or others you may have to cook in wine or broth. Then, if your recipe calls for removing the meat, use your fingers or a small fork. Next, use a small spoon to scoop out the meat; for the remaining mussel, use the shell to scoop it out.

For a classic French dish, you can serve your mussels in a broth, or on the other hand, you can toss the mussels with some pasta and other seafood ingredients and make a chowder. You can also fill the empty shells with mussel meat and toasted breadcrumbs.

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While black mussels may be your most prominent and popular choice, it is not the only mussel. While preparing small mussels, you must ensure it’s safe to eat. There are many health benefits and many health risks to eating small mussels. However, there are also many delicious dishes and different ways to prepare and enjoy them.