If you landed here, you are interested in reading the transcript M is for Mussels and Mangroves from the GreenFishBlueOceans podcast.

Scouting for snook in a mangrove cove in Tampa Bay, Florida

M is for Mussels and Mangroves

You know mussel aquaculture has been around for centuries. It’s a lucrative growing business. And it is one that will help feed the growing global population. If we can keep the ocean temperatures from rising that is.

Mussels are one of those seafood species that you either love or don’t. Particularly if you live in the US. We don’t share the same affinity to mussels as the rest of the world. Specifically, in Europe.

There are a variety of edible mussel species, fresh and saltwater, farmed and wild—although there are two species—the blue and the green lip that do the heavy lifting in the food world.

Mussels are a bivalve and therefore super sustainable. Like any bivalve, they are filter feeder’s—they make the water cleaner than it was before. They are high in protein, low in fat and have numerous minerals making them a superfood.

You can bake, steam, fry, smoke and marinate mussels in oil. They cook quickly so there’s no guesswork—when the shells open, the meat is ready to eat.

Mussel meat has a distinct flavor—part ocean, part mushroom. And whether you poach them in a liquid like red sauce, coconut milk, of a lemon-wine and leeks, the flavor will shine through. Mussels, when cooked properly, will have a slightly chewy, soft pillow texture. Oh my, so amazing.

And great news seafood lovers. You can buy mussels year-round. Either fresh or frozen.

Here a few buying tips: If you buy fresh, ask to read the tag because mussels have a harvest date. Your best bet is to buy mussels five days from harvest, but depending on the time of year, winter is best because mussels thrive in cold water, you can buy them up to ten days and feel good about it. The shells should be tightly closed. So if you see a bag of mussels with gaping shells, you’ll want to pass and either head to the freezer aisle or buy another species.

If you shop in the freezer aisle at the grocery, you’ll find mussels in one or two-pound packages. They’ll be vacuum sealed so you want to make sure there are no gaps in the vacuum. Many of the pouches can be placed directly in the pouch in a pot of boiling water. Some mussel companies are producing convenient ready to cook meals. Drop the pouch in the boiling water, snip open the top and pour the contents into a bowl. Instant meal. Just add warm, crusty bread for dipping. Or if you buy the mussels without all the bells and whistles, prepare the mussels according to the package directions, empty the contents into a bowl, squeeze half a lemon over the top, kiss the mussels with kosher salt and a splash a dash of sherry vinegar, toss and slurp away.

I left a link in the show notes for two recipes—Mussels with Leeks and Chives and Thai Style Mussels—plus a shopping and storage guide.

And coming soon to my YouTube channel #realfoodrightnow, recipe videos.! So head over there when you get a chance and subscribe so you don’t miss a video. You will not be disappointed.

Meanwhile, enjoy those mussels.

M is for Mangroves

Several years ago, I mentioned to Kendra Lott, the editor of Edible Orlando magazine that I wanted to write a book about shrimp. The next time I saw her at a farmers market, she handed me a copy of the book, Let Them Eat Shrimp, The Tragic Disappearance of the Rainforests of the Sea by Kennedy Warne.

I’m writing that shrimp book now btw. But more about that in S is for Shrimp episode later this year.

Up until the point that Kendra gave me that book, I never made the association between shrimp and mangroves.

Mangroves for me were trees with gnarly-limbed roots that thrived in warm brackish water in the tropics. like ancient majestic creatures that lined the canals and coastlines of Florida and the islands in the Caribbean. Mangroves grow intricate underwater root systems. These estuaries are nursery habitats for juvenile fish, are home to fiddler crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. The roots provide shelter to many marine species and organisms. And above the water in the thick canopy of the succulent, salt-crusted leaves and twisted branches of the mangrove, great blue herons, cormorants and snowy white egrets live and roost.

Mangroves are brilliant adapters with a reproductive system that rivals no other.

For instance, Mangrove seed pods germinate on its leaves, then, when ready, drop into the water. And whether it’s low tide or high tide, the seed, once it enters the water, will establish itself in the thick mud, or travel the oceans currents until it finds land.

Mangroves act as a protective barrier to coastlines. They bear the brunt of fierce tropical storms and hurricanes making them the first line of defense for the world’s coastal populations.

Mangrove forests are complex ecosystems.

Mangroves are simply amazing.

There are over 80 species of mangroves living along the world’s tropical coastlines. These magnificent and wonderful trees live in water 100 times saltier than any other plant. Mangroves don’t just survive in this torturous warm salty brackish water, they thrive.

The largest living mangrove forest in the world is the Sundarbans. This immense forest—3,900 square miles—borders Southern Bangladesh and on the Bay of Bengal in India. This spectacular forest is recognized for its rich biodiversity, including over 260 bird species, the Bengal Tiger, and other exotic threatened species. It is also considered one of the world’s important ancient heritage and historical sites dating back to 200-300 AD. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and one of the natural wonders of the world.

Fair warning here friends. That’s the warm and fuzzy part of the program.

Sadly, mangrove forest loss is rampant around the globe with as much as 60 to 84 percent already destroyed in some areas. With only about 1 percent of legal land protection for these incredibly diverse forests, they barely stand a chance. In the Sundarbans, protected areas cover only fifteen percent of the Sundarbans mangroves.

So what’s the primary destructive force behind these incredible shrinking forests?

Wait for it…shrimp farming.

That’s right. Our insatiable desire for shrimp is destroying some of our planet’s most prized ecosystems. Although shrimp aquaculture is not the only culprit. Other forces are at work to alter the landscape include tourism, agriculture, coastal development, charcoal and timber industries, catastrophic and extreme cyclones. And of course, climate change—rising seas and pressure on freshwater resources. While mangroves love salt, they need fresh water to balance their growth and health.

Over the course of time, these manmade and natural changes are creating a loss of resources, flora, fauna, wildlife, homes, communities and humans. Remember mangrove trees act as a protection layer insulating millions of coastal residents and wildlife.

In addition, Mangroves are a major player in the global carbon balance—their root systems trap carbon and they filter fresh water before it gets carried back out to sea.

So back to that book I mentioned earlier, Let Them Eat Shrimp.

As I mentioned a few minutes ago, some of the most dangerous and destructive things happening to the Sundarbans is deforestation, industrial sewage, and runoff from power plants, agriculture, overfishing and threats from oil spills offshore.

As a result, the conservation status of the Sundarbans Mangroves is critical and endangered.

And the challenges facing mangroves don’t stop in the Sundarbans. The problem stretches across the globe. In Brazil, where the mangroves are a way of life. In these coastal areas, mangroves are being bulldozed. destroying communities, livelihoods, water resources and wildlife, across Central and Latin America. Australia. The United States. Along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. Tanzania. Panama.

So what’s being done today to protect mangrove forests?

Eco-tourism in the Sundarbans is a healthy opportunity for coastal communities.

Small-scale replanting efforts are occurring around the globe.

What can you do? What is your role?

Plant a tree. The loss of mangroves around the world means less carbon is being trapped. Since trees capture carbon in their wood, plant a tree to help offset carbon emission. Any tree will do! But if live near a tropical waterway, organize a mangrove seed planting competition.

Think twice before you eat shrimp says the woman writing a book about shrimp.

Just think about this.

  • Where does your shrimp come from?
  • And who is harvesting it?

Not all shrimp are farmed or harvested equally. We pay a great deal of attention to where our other protein sources come from, why not shrimp and fish?

To help you wade through your choices, I included several seafood recommendation guides in the show notes.

Here are four trust-worthy seafood recommendation resources:

  • Seafood Watch
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • FishChoice
  • Marine Stewardship Council

You don’t have to look at all of them. Pick one. Then decide what to buy for your family.

Do you need another all you can eat buffet in your hood? If you’re a chef, choose another seafood species instead of shrimp. Or better, take shrimp off the menu.

We cannot continue to be surprised when entire coastal communities are torn apart by a storm because natures wall is gone.

There’s much more fascinating information in the show notes about mangroves. Dig in and discover how mangroves and wetland restoration can help stabilize the air we breathe, create jobs for coastal communities and preserve our beautiful blue planet. This is not a task for the faint-hearted. There are numerous challenges involved with mangrove restoration.

But know this.

Mangroves matter my friends.

Hey, thanks for listening to GreenFishBlueOceans. Next up, N is for Nori and Nutrient Pollution.

And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Feel free to email me or hit me up on social media with your comments and questions. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great two weeks!

Show Notes