The mussel is the most important product of the Dutch shellfish farming sector. The fishing town of Yerseke in Zeeland is the mussel epicentre of north-west Europe; approximately 90 million kilos of mussels a year – more than 50 million of which come from Dutch waters – are processed here and the town is home to the Dutch Mussel Auction. Most mussels that come from Yerseke are sold as fresh mussels. Belgium and France are the largest sales markets.
Bottom culture versus suspended culture
In addition to bottom culture, mussels are also cultivated using the suspended cultivation method in the Netherlands. In this method, mussel seed is held in suspension in long, sock-shaped cotton nets with a rope in the middle. During cultivation, the mussels are thinned out several times and resuspended. There are various differences between bottom culture and this cultivation method. Firstly, suspended mussels tend to grow faster due to their position higher up in the water column where more food is available. Secondly, they are mechanically declumped in a different manner to accommodate the fact that their shells are weaker due to their faster growth rate. The mussels do not come into contact with the bottom and therefore no sand needs to removed. All suspended culture systems are located in the waters of Zeeland. The annual production from suspended culture on average amounts to 5 percent of the total mussel production in the Netherlands.
The mussel sector is concentrated around the towns of Yerseke, Zierikzee, Bruinisse and Tholen in Zeeland. The mussel growers are from these four fishing towns. The mussel cutters from these places can be identified by the following indications on their bow: YE, ZZ, BRU and TH.
Almost all of the mussel-processing companies are located in Yerseke. In all cases, these are family businesses with a strong sense of tradition. At the processing plant, the mussels are declumped (or debearded), the shells are cleared of growth and they are packaged.
The fishing town of Yerseke in Zeeland is the mussel epicentre of the Netherlands. Yerseke is home to the Dutch Mussel Auction, where mussel growers offer their mussels up for sale. The geographical location is not a coincidence. In the Eastern Scheldt near Yerseke, the so-called Yerseke Bank is located; the soil of the Easters Scheldt is hard and peaty here, making it ideal for rewatering. Through a controlled water supply system, the pure water of the Eastern Scheldt is also used by the mussel companies when processing in basins on shore.
Zeker Zeeuws regional product
Since 2014, Zeeland has had a certification label for regional products: Zeker Zeeuws. The certification refers to the regional origin of raw materials (province of Zeeland, including coastal and inland waterways), processing in the region and socially responsible (sustainable) production (MVO). The Zeker Zeeuws certification also means the product is nationally acknowledged as a Recognised Regional Product by the Dutch Foundation for Regional Products.
For mussels to be sold under the Zeker Zeeuws certification mark, they must have spent at least three weeks in Zeeland’s Eastern Scheldt water. More information is available at zekerzeeuws.nl
Size classes: from Gold Label to Extra
Mussels are available in different sizes. From large to small, the designations Gold label, Jumbo, Imperial, Super and Extra are used. The number of pieces per kilo can range from less than 45 pieces per kilo, meaning the mussels have a large shell, to more than 75 mussels per kilo. Per season, the actual number of pieces per class is determined. By the way, most packages will separately indicate the number of pieces per kilo. The most common packaging for fresh mussels is a 2kg leakproof container. Restaurants and wholesalers are often supplied with 15-kg jute sacks.
Easily cook tasty mussels at home!
– 2 leeks
– 2 onions
– Couple of stalks of celery
– Couple of laurel leaves
– Glass of wine
Rinse the mussels before cooking and inspect them. Remove any broken or open mussels. Cut 2 leeks and 2 onions into rings and combine these in a large pan together with some celery, a few laurel leaves and a glass of wine.
Fill the pan (with a thin bottom) with mussels for three-quarters, sprinkle with pepper and bring to the boil on a high heat with lid closed. The cooking fluid will push the lid up when the mussels start boiling. Lift the lid so that the moisture level drops again. Shake or stir the mussels. Put the lid back on the pan and, in the same way as before, allow the moisture to push the lid up twice more. The mussels are ready, serve them immediately!
Delicious with a baguette or fries!