Bivalve trifecta

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It was three-day, three-shellfish weekend. Saturday was clams. Sunday, oysters. And Monday, for the first time, we went for mussels.

Kevin out musseling

Kevin out musseling

Mussels are the gateway shellfish. If you’re a little intimidated by clamming or oystering because of the expertise, special equipment, and fortitude involved, then musseling is for you. You just wait for low tide and pick the things off the rocks. Literally. Then, when you’re bolstered by your mussel success, you can move on to more challenging shelffish.

Naturally, I did this in the wrong order. I tried clamming, which is hardest, first. This resulted in an ignominious episode involving wandering around on a beach known to be clamless, on a day when clamming was forbidden, using a clam rake to dig where clams wouldn’t have been anyway. But perhaps I was lucky. If I’d done mussels first, I might never have made it to clams at all.

We were tipped off by a friend that the Cape Cod Canal was jam-packed with mussels, and we went there at low tide yesterday morning, not knowing what we’d find. We brought a wide variety of implements, from a garden trowel to a pitchfork, because we weren’t sure what we’d need to harvest the catch – assuming we could find the catch. When we got there, we left all the implements in the car as we made a reconnaissance run to see if there actually were mussels to be harvested.

The canal is bordered by large, sloping, walls of rocks, the lower parts of which are covered with seaweed and algae that can make them quite slippery. Climbing down turned out to be the hardest part of the outing, and we were amply rewarded for it. Mussels, mussels, everywhere. We had about eight pounds of them inside ten minutes. No implements were required; we picked up big clumps of them in our hands. It was as though the mussel truck had dumped them there, just for us.  (Here’s what we did with them.)

The haul

The haul

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my entire adult life in cities, but I haven’t yet gotten over my astonishment at being able to go to the right place at the right time and pluck dinner out of the water, or the woods, or the earth. Yesterday, I was astonished all over again at the canal, at low tide.

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Comments

  1. Cape Cod Rose says:

    We will be headed to the canal to scoop up some mussels of our own. We really want to try making your “mussels in a heady brew”.
    Are the mussels that easy to get?
    I agree with Noah, I’ve lived here a while and never thought to get any from the wild. Thanks for the tip.
    We’ll be looking forward to reading about more of your tasty bivalve dishes.

    • CCRose — They are indeed that easy to get. Just make sure you go to the right place, as parts of the Canal are closed to shellfishing. The best I could make of the regulations, you need to be west of pole 100 (which is about halfway between the Sagamore Bridge and the Sandwich Marina), but you might want to check them yourself. There’s a list here. The pole numbers are in big blue numbers on the telephone poles that line the canal on both sides — you can’t miss ‘em.

  2. Andrew Daly says:

    Hi All,

    We have been going down to the canal with our lobster traps for a few years now and when we first went there we noticed thousands of mussels everywhere at low tide and all the star fish! We even harvested mussels for the pot. Come to learn that starfish feed on mussels… not sure how but both were in surprising abundance. This season we have gone down and we were surprised to see no mussels or starfish and we are wondering why this is so. Could it be warming water temperatures? Could it be just natural seasonal, cyclic changes? We don’t know. Any ideas???

  3. Andrew — I haven’t been down to the Canal in a while, so I didn’t know about the mussel dearth. As for the cause, I couldn’t begin to guess — shellfish seem to be both sensitive and enigmatic. Thanks for the report, though.