The best way to cook your foraged mussels.

Recipe for Galician Mussels

Mussels (Mytilus edulis) are a common ingredient in Spanish cuisine. They are cooked in many different ways, either just boiled with a squeeze of lemon juice over them, or even better, added to stews or paella.
After spending a couple of weeks in Galicia (north-west corner of Spain) and trying a few of these plates made by locals, I found that my absolute favourite is as easy to make as it is delicious.

Foraging for seafood in Galicia is, however, forbidden by law, as there are professional “Marisqueiros” (seafood collectors), who need to have a license to catch and sell the fruits of their seas. Thankfully, the situation in the UK is different and makes it possible for seafood-lovers to make a trip to their nearest beach and try to find these little black-and-orange animals. The amount and size of mussels you find around the coasts of the British Isles are much smaller than in Galicia, so make sure you don’t take more than you need and let the small ones continue to live on the rocks.  It’s also really important to try and get advice from the locals before you go out foraging for mussels, as they may be kind enough to warn you of issues with water quality, local sewage outflow pipes (which you’d want to avoid for obvious reasons), and anything else you may need to be aware of, including any kind of local bylaws preventing the collecting of the mussels.

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How to Catch Signal Crayfish

American Signal Crayfish

If you’re interested in foraging for wild food then it’s highly likely that you’ve heard about the plight of the Signal crayfish in England. In this article we’ll take a look at a bit of the background story involving Signal crayfish, and then we’ll dive deep into how to catch them – including applying for a license, getting the traps, and most importantly finding a stretch of water in the UK* that contains the non-native crayfish.

*It’s worth noting that the situation in Scotland is very different to that of the rest of the UK – it is illegal to possess a live crayfish in Scotland. Anyone who witnesses the trapping or moving of crayfish is encouraged to report it to Police Scotland using the non-emergency 101 phone number, or online: Report Wildlife Crime – Police Scotland

Signal crayfish are not widespread in Scotland, so conservation efforts concentrate on preventing them from spreading, and eradicating them where it is possible, to protect our uninvaded waters.

Trapping signal crayfish in Scotland would likely make the problem far worse as traps tend to favour larger male individuals, removing natural predation within the population (the big ones cannibalise the small ones and can help keep the population in check) so leaving a younger, more readily reproducing population that spreads more quickly. Trapping will not control or eradicate a population, and commercial trapping or trapping for personal use is not permitted in Scotland. The NatureScot licensing team only issue licences for crayfish trapping under exceptional circumstances because the risk of encouraging their spread is so great. They only issue licenses for survey work to monitor the distribution and spread of signal crayfish in Scotland. They don’t issue licenses for the purpose of catching crayfish to eat because in addition to the problems above this also creates incentives for people to move them to new areas.


American Crayfish
Photo of the Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) by Astacoides

Background story of the Signal Crayfish – Why are they here?

This American Signal crayfish was introduced to the UK in the late 70’s as part of an aquaculture program to farm the crustacean to be used as a source of food.

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Fishing for Whiting

A fish which a few years ago would have been sniffed at by most, for being unfashionable and bland, with apparently watery tasteless white flesh but which is now quite a prized asset is that of whiting.

Being closely related to the cod fish, which has been severely over-fished in the past, whiting is a very tasty and under-used fish. Recently it has become quite fashionable to eat, unfortunately being targeted as a direct replacement for cod.

If you’re not going to be out foraging (or fishing, to be more accurate) for your own whiting, then you must ensure that you buy sustainably caught specimens only. These should be clearly labelled at your fishmongers, if not then just ask. Avoid those that have been trawled for. Remember that a fresh whiting shouldn’t smell “fishy” but of the sea. It should have bright eyes, with no fading or blemishes around the eye. The gills should be bright and fresh too.

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