Green Lipped Mussels – Great Barrier Island

Amongst the many delicious foods that you should try during your New Zealand holiday is of course a dish of fresh, big and juicy green lipped mussels. To make this experience more memorable, gather them yourself. Sometimes, you don’t even need to get wet to collect a feed of mussels.

Fresh, big, delicious and easy to prepare. Green lipped mussels.
Fresh, big and delicious green lipped mussels can be easy to gather and are easy to prepare as well.

You should be aware of limits and regulations that are set out by the ministry of fisheries before you start gathering any seafood. Yes, as strange as it might or might not sound to you, it is illegal in New Zealand to sell or trade any seafood. There are also daily and size limits. The fisheries are regulated by the government. Of course some will say this is good and will provide ecological sustainability, others might say, hold on, so perhaps one day it will be illegal to grow crops on your land and sell it. My take is that the government needs to address and manage the fisheries, however, it should set laws that will support the people first and not export sales and economic sustainability. As it is now, commercial fishing is in the hands of a very few companies and the techniques they use are destructive (to fish stocks, sea beds) and non-selective, and recreational fisherpersons are forbidden by law to use similar methods. In addition, size limits do not exist for commercial fishing activities.

Politics aside, there are daily and size limits for most type of seafood, and also the process used to gather them, and my advice is to get informed before you go out looking to gather seafood for your table.

When it comes to gathering mussels, it certainly helps to do so at low tide. Mom and I went for a stroll at a beach on a low tide and on our way back collected a feed of green lipped mussels.

gathering_musselsWhen you’re on the rocks, you should never turn your back to the ocean (unless of course Mom wants you to do so for a picture), and be mindful about your safety. Water is quite dense and a small wave can knock you off your footing and you’ll be dragged on pointy rocks and mussels, and cutting yourself would be the least of your potential problems.

The experience of eating fresh seafood can easily be diminished by inappropriate preparation methods. When it comes to mussels, sand can be a huge issue and overcooking, too.

Simple Green Lipped Mussels Recipe:

  1. Wash the mussels in shell properly in cold water
  2. Do this another time
  3. Bring a small amount of water in a pot to the boil
  4. Add the mussels, put the lid on
  5. Allow the steam to cook the mussels
  6. Any mussel that has opened should be taken out immediately
  7. Shuck the mussels using a spoon or fork
  8. Sea weed is attached to a part of the mussel. You need to get rid of the sea weed obviously, with a bit of practice, you can remove the part of the mussel that the weed is attached to easily. This part is actually a bit chewy, so why not get rid of it completely. The chicken seem to love it and it would be a good source for compost too.
  9. You’ll have a bowl full of shucked mussels now. Rinse them again in cold water to get rid of remaining sand.
  10. Now it’s time to jazz them up. I like to stir fry vegetables and add the mussels later with a bit of flour.
Happy Ben with a feed of green lipped mussels.
Happy Ben with a feed of green lipped mussels; removing some of the sea weed.
Simple stir fry, but hey, there will be books with 100s of recipes of what you can do with your mussels once shucked.
Simple stir fry, but hey, there will be books with 100s of recipes of what you can do with your mussels once shucked. Why not grill them, make a chowder or mussel fritters.

By the way, did you know that mature female green lipped mussels have orange flesh and mature male ones white? Check out the life cycle of green lipped mussels.

Apropos by the way, I heard that the mussel farms on Great Barrier Island have been sold to one of the biggest commercial seafood harvesting companies in New Zealand. Businesses go belly up for various reasons and I suppose only a very few will ever know why the business was sold. It would be naive to believe that the mussel farms were operated by local Great Barrier Island residents in the first place and I can’t find much useful publicity about it at the moment.

The issue that I have with this, and feel free to disregard anything from here on, is that Great Barrier Island hosts a few yearly events for which we are famous and which attract many tourists. The Mussel Fest is/was one of them. Personally, I would have rather had the Auckland Council – yes, they have so much on their table and politics isn’t black and white – step in, buy the farms temporarily and support a framework (in the long run) in which the local community could find appropriate means to take over the farms.

I believe that it is also the Auckland Council’s duty to enable communities to be in a position to operate businesses, especially in areas of fisheries and agriculture, sustainably both ecologically and economically. Any business that hires local people, in which the stakeholders have more than financial interest, and offers their produces locally, creates vastly more wealth for the communities and the people living therein (yes, this is my claim. Feel free to research peer-reviewed journals about it. I’m sure there will be hundreds of publications about this claim.)

Something is wrong when the line of thought and entire rationale in operating businesses, especially those that deal with what is essentially a ‘commodity’ of all citizens, is to focus on maximum profits by utilizing cheap labour and exports. The price for meat and seafood is horrendous in New Zealand. New Zealanders must work even harder to be able to buy produces that are abundantly available and should be available to all of us, and not only those who are able to gather them themselves or have the money to buy them.

Imagine a country in which building a home from timber is affordable, seafood, dairy and meat are affordable and people can get away from the prisons of full time labour and can actually spend more time with family and the community and do their bit to develop more wealth for the entire country, rather than being set in a framework where one is inclined to create wealth for one’s own first and foremost.

This is New Zealand, we have heaps of sun, wind, timber, water, sea foods, agriculture, we can grow many, many crops due to our climate, we have an extremely small population density and are quite far away from ‘the rest of the world’. To excel, to do this beautiful country justice, we should rather focus on adopting measures and practices that reflect our fortunate circumstances, create sustaining wealth for the people and safeguarding our resources. Our goals should be 100% renewable energy, a massively reduced carbon foot print and making New Zealand’s resources available to all who live here.

By following (economical) paths that have never been proven to be fair or actually helpful to the people as a whole, and celebrating short-term successes in forms of exports, monetary profits, GDP and employment opportunities, we are disregarding our special circumstances and will never achieve our potential as a country and people. Worst of all, we sacrifice our independence. What is this potential I’m talking of, you ask?

Be one of the richest and happiest countries in the world.

2 thoughts on “Green Lipped Mussels – Great Barrier Island”

  1. Sadly that dream will not be: The simple fact is that the rich and powerful will only get richer and more powerful by creating scarcity and therefore demand, and increasing the price of any given (perhaps even freely available) commodity. It is not in Corporate (and therefore not in Council) interest to have local communities actually benefiting from the freely available resources that surround them. That benefit is far better off being passed up the corporate chain to the superwealthy elite at the top, because they clearly deserve it. And that is why it won’t happen. (Please, please prove me wrong – I’d like nothing more than to eat my words!). Paul xxxxx

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