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By James Peterson

Published 2007

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You are likely to encounter three kinds of mussels: small blue cultivated mussels, large black wild mussels, and large green New Zealand mussels. They are all cooked in the same way, with the larger ones taking a minute or two longer. Cultivated mussels are the easiest to deal with because they don’t have large beards—the tufts of hair that stick out one side of the shell, which they use to hold onto rocks or pilings. They can typically be ignored or pulled off each mussel after all the shellfish have been cooked and are open. The beards on wild mussels usually need to be pulled off before cooking—just grab it with your thumb and forefinger and tug. Wild mussels must be well scrubbed to eliminate any mud clinging to the shell. While cultivated mussels are cleaner and less likely to contain the grit commonly found in the wild mussels, their meats are sometimes disappointingly small and lack the complex flavor of their wild cousins. Some shellfish neophytes are put off by the size of wild mussels and the feeling of a large mussel in the mouth.