Ever heard the saying that you should only eat mussels when there is an 'r' in the month? If you believe this then you should be jumping in the van and dashing to the coast next week with your foraging bucket and a tide table. With spring tides all week exposing the juiciest mussels at low water, there could be a moule fest. It'll be the last chance to nab a free feast before September.
But why? Depending on who you talk to, the reason behind avoiding seafood in summer is either about the spawning season or water temperature. One side says it's to do with the fact that bivalves reproduce in summer and don't taste so great, the other says that algal blooms in warm summer waters can make seafood toxic. For me, the jury's out on the latter because the sea temperature won't start to really warm up until late June or July (It is currently a very balmy 9 degrees centigrade in North Devon. Brrr.) and will stay warm-ish until October or November. Although I'm not disputing the fact that certain algae can render your seafood inedible.
There may not even be any truth in the idea that spawning spoils the tase of a mussel but it is widely accepted that Oysters aren't at their best when they are reproducing. I've never eaten foraged mussels in May, June, July or August so I couldn't say the same is true for my delicious little friends. But I do think that we should leave them be for a few months. We should allow them to get on with their thing. It's summer. Love is in the air. Let them make all the babies they want to. It means the population will stay healthy. And we can enjoy them again when September comes around.
So we'll be off to the beach next week. We'll be picking like mad things. And then we'll steam them in a little white wine and cream and wolf them down with a thick slice of crusty bread and creamy Devon butter. Yum! Wanna come?