CREATURE FEATURE - MUSSEL
The Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis) is found in many places in the Moray Firth. They can form huge beds particularly in areas where conditions are good for larval settlement, and where there is an abundance of food. Mussels feed by filtering the water through a tube called a siphon extracting the phytoplankton (single celled algae) it contains. It might surprise you to know that Mussels have little hearts that pump clear blood, and they have a kidney, a stomach, and a mouth, but like the scarecrow, they haven't got a brain.
Mussels make for great eating and are truly one of nature's most delightful delicacies. They are usually steamed, although they are also wonderful grilled, baked, stewed or sauteed. They are extremely high in proteins, calcium and iron while being low in fat and calories. They are also excellent for your heart, containing the highest amount of omega3's of any shellfish (this is the fatty acid that is believed to lower blood pressure).
During the summer months, numbers of naturally occurring toxic algae can increase and if ingested in sufficient quantities by the mussels, may be harmful to humans. To ensure that the mussels that reach your plate are safe to eat, mussels and water samples are regularly tested. Areas such as the Dornoch Firth, where mussels have been harvested for centuries, have been classified Grade "A" as a shellfish water under EC Directives, which demonstrates the pristine nature of the waters in the area.