Mary Lou e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that she was confused by the choice of mussels in her market. She wondered if wild or cultivated mussels are the best choice.
Most of the mussels we find in restaurants, fish stores and supermarkets are blue mussels from North Atlantic waters. They probably came from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or Maine. You can tell right away whether they are wild or cultivated. Wild mussels have larger rougher looking shells, often with beards (a hairy string from the side of the shell) and barnacles attached. Cultivated mussels have small smooth dark shells and negligible beards, if any at all. The wild mussels are stronger in flavor, almost gamey. They also contain more grit than the cultivated. I prefer the more delicate taste and tender texture of the cultivated.