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vics

foraging for oysters and mussels

Wow! I've just found this site and think it is fantastic. Well done whoever set it all up!
I would like any tips anyone has for foraging for oysters. There are apparently lots on certain local beaches and it seems to me to be an ethical form of foraging as the portuguese oyster is threatening the indigenous species.
I read the article on foraging for mussels and thought it was good, but I was a bit concerned about reports from friends that the mussels can be full of mud and grit ....am I right in thinking that they, like oysters, might be best left in salt water with oatmeal for 24 hours, on a rack, so that they get rid of any gumph that has accumulated ???
Also, how do you actually go about harvesting oysters.....? If anyone has ideas and experience please let me know!
Jamanda

Hi Vics. Welcome to the site.

There's a couple of articles in here you might find interesting.

Not sure about oysters. I think they live in deeper water and you need sub aqua gear to collect them.
Jamanda

Sorry - you've already read the main mussel article - late at night, not reading properly!

I've never found mussels to be unduly gritty. Sometimes they can be quite salty. I don't think I'd be wanting to collect them from anywhere muddy!
Jonnyboy

You can purge mussels, make up a brine solution, add some oatmeal or cornmeal and leave for a few hours.
vics

Oysters

Thanks for the replies...oysters round here are in relatively shallow water as there are many rocky reefs which are accessible in low tide: I think oysters thrive in settings where they are covered in water for a period of time but they survive the low tides .... but yes, wading to some degree may be necessary if only at wellie levels!
Still puzzled by lack of information on this one. I think you have to chisel the oysters off the chalk reefs as they cling on.
Vics
Rob R

If you google "oyster foraging", this thread comes out top! Laughing
Jamanda

Just looked them up in Richard Mabey's Food for free. He says there are very few wild oysters left around Britain, so you should leave them.

Are the ones you find smooth shelled (natives) or rougher like the ones you buy - if the latter maybe they are escaped cultivated ones and so are OK to take.

Edited to add - don't worry too much about getting things in exactly the right forum - most people just use the latest post button any way. And things have a habit of flying off on a tangent round here any way.
cab

Re: foraging for oysters and mussels

Vics, the quality of mussels varies with where you get them from; some beaches give you gritty mussels, some don't.

The ground oats-in-salty-water thing, its dead easy and I find it helps. Get some clean tap water, make it salty like seawater, put it in a bucket, and put your mussels in - you want a decent depth. Add a handfull of ground oats (or if you haven't got any, flour will do at a push), mix it in, leave it somewhere cool for 24 hours or so. Gets a bit of grit out I guess, but more importantly it means that your mussels last meal was something entirely clean and safe, and of a neutral flavour allowing the taste of the mussels to dominate.

Jamanda is right to caution you about oysters. But you've got more options than just oysters and mussels; have you considered winkles, shore crabs, seaweed..?

Roughly where are you, whats the seashore like round your way?
crofter

Re: foraging for oysters and mussels

cab wrote:
Get some clean tap water, make it salty like seawater, put it in a bucket,


Or just use seawater. I have never heard of the oatmeal idea, (we just eat mussels directly from the sea) but cockles are depurated overnight in a bucket of water.
cab

Re: foraging for oysters and mussels

crofter wrote:
cab wrote:
Get some clean tap water, make it salty like seawater, put it in a bucket,


Or just use seawater. I have never heard of the oatmeal idea, (we just eat mussels directly from the sea) but cockles are depurated overnight in a bucket of water.


Gosh, but with that lovely clear seawater up where you are, I'd be using seawater too (and I've had good mussels straight out of the sea at Lochalsh). Depends where you are really. I believe its safer to feed them overnight in salty water, but I've never been of the view that it is particularly dangerous not to do so.
Tavascarow

This is a good site to guage where it's safe to pick.
I'm assuming the EA measure harmful mico biology in their tests.
I'd still be wary of anything below excellent as moluscs could build harmful levels over a period of time from a moderate amount of pollution.
maryf

I've collected mussels, winkles, cockles and samphire in various places along the Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk coasts, I usually just rinse them in a bucket or bowl of tap water a couple of times then cook them straight away. I've never had any problems, but I have heard about oatmeal for mussels. I've also had fresh water oysters from a friends farm reservoir - not quite foraging but excellent eating!
Tavascarow

can anyone tell me how strong the brine should be.
I watched HFW but can't remember.
ros

I think sea water is 3 to 4% , so somewhere around there should do it Very Happy
frankbeswick

Check the local fisheries committee for your area so that you can find out what is permitted and what is not. rules vary according to the area.
dpack

hello
mussels ,walk the coast ,ask questions,assess the biological challenge by observation of the other coastal life

basic rule is as far from a sewer/polluted river as possible ,

oyster collection is outside my experiance

if you want a tasty ,safe meal limpets are ace if a bit chewy ,either cook fast or very slowly ,they graze so tend not to aquire a toxic load of anything

cockles and razor clams are pretty safe ,whelks are high risk ,winkles are inbetween re risk from bio/chemical hazard

if i was in need of a snack sugar wrack and limpets would be on my list as first choice until i knew the coast

avoid coasts with an industrial legacy if there is a big heavey metal or radiological load (i wont eat anything from devon to scotland and north sea fish are a rarity),there are local issues as well which one should assess on their facts
lottie

Tavascarow wrote:
can anyone tell me how strong the brine should be.
I watched HFW but can't remember.

I'm reading River Cottage Edible Seashore at the minute[library book] and that recommends 35g salt per litre---shallow trays with shellfish no more than one deep for oxygenation,change water once and not longer than 10 hrs in there before cooking.
Bodger

Thanks to lottie, for better or worse I've just purchased a copy this morning from ABE Books.

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?bt.x=82&bt.y=19&sortby=3&sts=t&tn=the+edible+seashore
lottie

I'm still debating whether to get one when I have to take it back to the library--but I'm weakening. Wink
Bodger

Mussels.
I take the dog for a walk on the beach most days and at the far end, there are thousands of mussels. I've visited this spot for years and in all that time there's never been any bigger than your thumb nail. Its very frustrating. I'm waiting for a really low tide, just incase there are some bigger ones further out but I've never had any success in the past.
What sort of sites do you get your mussels from?.Please don't suggest the shops. Very Happy
dpack

mr b ,have you tried in the crevices ,mussels tend to survive longer and get more food in sheltered cracks and rock pools
it is rough on the knuckles but feeling for them and grabbing the big ones can be effective

as you suspect taking advantage of very low tides will give larger specimins

wading with goggles and a hooky thing at very low tide will give acess to many tasty critters

my latest discovery is highr on the beach though ,sealice ,like woodlice but bigger and green and living at the top of the tidal zone ,are delicious flash boiled in limpet juice in the redundant shells
Ronnie

Wow - I never even considered eating a slater Surprised

Kudos

The key to foraging shellfish is clean water. Don't pick off piers or anywhere where sewerage is pumped into the sea. Rocky headlands are good. Mussels and oysters are good food, but they accumulate contaminants.

Pick near to a Blue Flag beach to be sure.
zigs

Was just surfing for fishy porn again and i came across this

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/4510035.Five_illegal_immigrants_caught_collecting_oysters_on_beach/

Thought it might be relevant, with the uv light purification bit.

Best flavoured meal i've ever had was mussells, just picked from cornish beach, with white wine & garlic sauce.
toggle

dpack wrote:

avoid coasts with an industrial legacy if there is a big heavey metal or radiological load (i wont eat anything from devon to scotland and north sea fish are a rarity),there are local issues as well which one should assess on their facts


that's the coast of cornwall out as well then, there are old arsenic mines upriver from here
Treacodactyl

toggle wrote:
dpack wrote:

avoid coasts with an industrial legacy if there is a big heavey metal or radiological load (i wont eat anything from devon to scotland and north sea fish are a rarity),there are local issues as well which one should assess on their facts


that's the coast of cornwall out as well then?


Why Devon dpack and both the north and south coasts? IIRC the pollution from Sellafield seems to travel mostly north so not much should reach the North Devon coast.
Jamanda

I've seen you eat limpets in North Devon Dpack!
Musty

Mussel foraging

Hello! Post are a bit old but I've not had much luck purging my mussels picked a bit off the sussex coast. Porridge and salt water is recommended but others don't seem to bother. Mine look like they've still got their poo sac after 24hrs purging.

I've had limpets, whelks and flounder and mackeral off my coast all good eating. I'm new and normally on the homebrewing topics. Bye.
Treacodactyl

Anyone foraged some mussels recently and are you still alive? Laughing

Hopefully I'll be out foraging tomorrow and I've been trying to find somewhere that lists any recent problems with shellfish and I can't find any sites. I notice that some beds have been closed in Pembrokeshire recently but there doesn't seem to be one place that lists the latest news. Confused

I've found this page on the CEFAS site that lists loads of locations and their previous history, it's quite useful even if it is a rather weighty 166 pages. (List of reports here)
Musty

Hmm, foraging for mussels? I recall something about not eating mussels when there's an 'R' in the month. Happy foraging, but you'll get more in the woods this time of year. Bye for now. Very Happy
Jamanda

I've never purged or worried about the letters in the month.

Treac - we've had them from Sandymouth, where they are small and plump but rather salty so you don't want loads.
Musty

Thanks Jamanda, maybe I'll try some E. Sussex mussels this month and find out where the 'R' saying came from. More into mush than mussels at the mo. Smile
Treacodactyl

Still alive after three hours... Laughing

We were just up the coast from Sandymouth, we'll try there in the coming weeks.

I only picked a few as they weren't that big or numerous, tasted fine to me. Plenty of laver about which is nice to nibble.

Musty, the saying is normally you only eat shellfish when there is a R in the month. There seems to be many reasons, such as: avoiding eating things when they are likely to be reproducing, growing quickly and thus processing large volumes of water and more at risk of picking things up, more likely to eat poisonous algae etc, etc.
Musty

Thanks Treac. I'm left handed so I often get things back to front. No lava where I am but lots of other seaweed. Bye for now. Smile
Musty

I meant laver. See?
MattV

Word of caution, check with your local Port Health Authority for water quality regarding ecoli and noro virus. Late summer can produce toxic algae that cannot be removed by soaking in salt water. good reference sight www.thecornishmusselshack
dpack

I've seen you eat limpets in North Devon Dpack!


from devon to scotland ,not including d or s.

along the bristol channel has industrial history,im dubious about anything in the irish sea but as the recorded radiological loads have decreased for technicium in winkle shells maybe there is less new load being added .

the irish box load has mostly been from sellafield/windscale but there have been inputs from several other facilities.it does go mostly north/west around ireland and into the northern seas.most places are radiologically/chemically safe to eat a few shellfish but as a staple it might be a mistake in some places.eating the shells is always wrong Laughing

there are other places to avoid such as dounreay but most are well known or behind wire.

as to chemical challenge from mine outflow local "hotspots"are common but usually only give dangeroos metal levels locally.in lagoons/estuaries /marshes etc they are less diluted by the sea.

biological challenge is the most immediate and requires common sense
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