Green Mussels vs. Black Mussels: Brain Superfoods

Why am I writing about mussels on a website about mental health nutrition? Believe it or not, mussels are mental health and brain superfoods! But what do mussels taste like? And how do you pick and cook mussels? Let’s take a closer look at green mussels vs. black mussels and answer those questions!

A person holding a platter of cooked black mussels with a slice of bread

What Are Mussels?

Mussels are a type of shellfish that live in both fresh and saltwater. They are often used in culinary dishes around the world and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Mussels belong to the mollusk family, which also includes oysters, clams,  and scallops. Mollusks are soft-bodied animals that have a hard shell for protection.

Mussels are filter feeders, which means they strain small particles of food from the water around them. As they filter the water, they also help to cleanse their environment.

Green Mussels and Black Mussels

Two of the most common types of mussels are green mussels and black mussels. Green mussels are also known as New Zealand greenshell mussels (Perna canaliculus). They are native to the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. 

Black mussels are also known as Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis). They are native to the coasts of Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Close-up of green mussels to show the difference in green mussels vs. black mussels

Green Mussels vs. Black Mussels

>Appearance & Size

Green mussels and black mussels are very similar in appearance. They both have long, tubular-shaped shells.  The green mussel shell is grayish-green or dark gray with green lips, while the black mussel shell is (surprise) black.

Green mussels are typically larger than black mussels. The average size of a green mussel is about 4 inches, while the average size of a black mussel is about 2 to 2 ½ inches.

>Cost

Green mussels are typically more expensive than black mussels. This is because they are larger and harder to cultivate.

Mussels ready for harvest

>Farming

Green mussels and black mussels are both farmed in a variety of ways. 

Green mussels are often farmed in suspended culture, which means they are grown in tanks or ponds that are connected to the ocean. The water in the tanks is constantly pumped full of fresh ocean water, which provides the mussels with the nutrients they need to grow.

Black mussels are often farmed in bottom culture, which means they are grown on ropes or nets that are placed on the ocean floor. The mussels attach themselves to the ropes or nets and filter the water around them for food.

>Availability

The availability of green mussels and black mussels can vary depending on where you live.

Green mussels are more common in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. They can be found in grocery stores and seafood markets.

Black mussels are more widely available. They can also be found in grocery stores and seafood markets.

Mussels cooking in a sauce with tomatoes and onions

What Do Mussels Taste Like?

Green mussels and black mussels have a similar taste. They are both slightly sweet with a slightly salty flavor. They are not fishy like some other seafood. 

When comparing green mussels vs. black mussels, some people say green mussels have a cleaner, milder taste, and black mussels are more flavorful and intense.

Green mussels and black mussels have a similar texture, but black mussels are slightly softer, and green mussels are more chewy.

Nutrition & Mental Health Benefits of Mussels

Green mussels and black mussels are both very nutritious. They are high in protein and low in calories. 

Both green mussels and black mussels are an excellent source of micronutrients, including vitamin B12, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

A yellow chart showing the nutrition facts for 3 oz. of raw mussels
https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174216/nutrients

More and more research is showing that your dietary pattern and food choices play a role in the treatment and prevention of mental health disorders, especially depression. And deficiencies in omega-3 fats, B vitamins, and zinc are linked to depression symptoms.

Because mussels are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium, iron, and zinc, they have a very high Antidepressant Food Score. Therefore, they are an excellent food to add to your diet to optimize your mental health.

How to Pick Mussels

When buying green or black mussels, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

1. Look for tightly closed shells. This is an indication that the mussel is alive and fresh.

2. Avoid mussels with cracks or chips in the shell as these may be old or damaged.

3. Make sure the mussels are clean and free of debris. Rinse them under cold water to remove any dirt or sand.

4. Smell the mussels to make sure they’re fresh. If they smell overly fishy or have a foul smell, they are not fresh and should be discarded.

Now that you know how to pick the perfect green or black mussel, it’s time to learn how to clean them.

How to Clean Mussels

Cleaning mussels is a simple process. Simply rinse them under cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Use your hands or a scrub brush to wash off any debris. 

Once the mussels are clean, it’s time to cook them!

A hand pouring cooked mussels from a pot to a serving bowl

How to Cook Mussels

Mussels can be steamed, boiled, baked, pan-fried, or grilled.

  • To steam mussels, simply place them in a pot with an inch of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. The mussels will open up and be cooked through after several minutes.
  • Boiling mussels is similar to steaming them. Simply place the mussels in a pot of boiling water and cook until they open up.
  • Baking mussels is a great way to add flavor. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the mussels on a baking sheet and add your favorite seasonings. Bake for 12-20 minutes (depending on the size) until the mussels are cooked through.
  • Pan-frying mussels is a quick and easy way to cook them. Simply heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the mussels and cook for several minutes until they open up.
  • Grilling mussels is a great way to add a smoky flavor. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Grill the mussels for a few minutes until they open up.

What to Serve with Mussels

Some great options for serving mussels are garlic butter, marinara sauce, pesto sauce, or chili-lime sauce. You can also serve them with a variety of dipping sauces, such as tzatziki sauce, ranch dressing, or blue cheese dressing.

Hands opening a single mussel with vegetables in the background

Good Side Dishes for Mussels

  • Grilled, steamed, or roasted veggies (e.g., broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, and/or broccoli)
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Green leaf salad
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Crusty whole-grain bread

Green and Black Mussels FAQ

Are mussels safe to eat?

Mussels that are thoroughly cooked are safe to eat. While the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference says that mussels harvested from approved waters and handled and processed in sanitary conditions are safe to eat raw, there is an increased risk of illness in some people. Therefore, I recommend cooking your mussels.

Can you substitute green and black mussels for each other in a recipe?

Yes, you can substitute green and black mussels for each other in a recipe. However, you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the recipe and the size of the mussels.

What diets will mussels work for?

Mussels are gluten-free and will work in a keto diet and a pescatarian diet.

Green mussels vs. black mussels: Is one type better than the other? Green mussels and black mussels are both mental health and brain superfoods that offer a variety of health benefits. If you’re looking to incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet or want to protect your brain with antioxidants, then consider adding either type of these delicious shellfish to your next meal!

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