Beachcombing

Mackenzie Beach, Tofino, BC

Mackenzie Beach, Tofino, BC

So this was the grocery store today. In the spirit of “Living the Dream” today the hippies who live at the ecovillage (with the exception of me, who is only an honorary hippie and is middle-aged and had a job interview, besides) went down to the beach with buckets and trowels to dig for clams. They didn’t find any, because once they realized the mussels that literally lined the rocks at the far end of the beach were edible (after asking me more than a dozen times if the mussels lining the rocks at the far end of the beach were edible), they simply grabbed handfuls of mussels instead.

Mussels are, in fact, edible. They are, in fact, awesome, especially that fresh. And yes, we checked the red tide warnings before we went a-beachcombing. You’re supposed to avoid not only active red tide areas, duh, but avoid shellfish from areas which have had red tides in the last two years, and the last one in this vicinity was in 2011, so we’re all good.

It’s not hard to grab these mussels by the handful, because that’s one mussel.

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Being hippies, we were not into a complicated preparation routine, and being hippies, we had neither white wine nor the spare cash to buy some, so instead we lined big pans with kale, added water to the top of the kale, put the mussels on top of the kale to steam, and steamed away.

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This is the hallway to the kitchen.

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And this is the cookbook, Living Off the Sea. It is outstanding if you’re interested in sustainable harvesting on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, or anywhere on the West Coast, really.

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We’ve been picking the tops off the kale so it doesn’t go to seed, and the flowers are sweet and the stems are tender when they’re that new.

OpHippie Mussel Meal

We served them with kale, obviously, and several different sauces dictated by “what’s at the bottom of the pantry” which ended up being an unopened jar of black bean sauce, some marinara sauce, a garlic cream sauce whipped up by an English girl with a real gift for “bottom of the pantry” melange, and a vegetable stock.

OpHippie Mussel Meal
OpHippie Mussel Meal

Mussels this fresh are, it turns out, quite a bit saltier than the ones you buy frozen or even fresh, sitting in fresh water at the grocery store. These ones have never tasted fresh water, and have a mild, yet meaty and quite salty flavour. The texture was extraordinarily tender, with no gristly bits at all. Because we hadn’t soaked them long, some were quite sandy, but not all.

We did have edible-sized barnacles, but we ate so many mussels that nobody was interested in trying the allegedly edible but certainly unappetizing-looking carbuncles. All in all, one of those unforgettable nights beside the campfire, where the best seasoning is the company of friends.

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5 thoughts on “Beachcombing

  1. UPDATE: It turns out that after I left, they did eat the barnacles, and they were apparently “better than the mussels, although they were a bit awkward to eat with the little beaks on the end.” I shall have to try one tomorrow, as we have mussels enough for a couple of days.

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  2. OMG! Reading this post for me is like a trip backwards through a time tunnel. Anyhoo – I was born on the coast, graduated from highschool at the very end of the 60’s became a back to the lander after college and Uni. And, yes I’m actually old enough to wear the hippie label. I’ve been there and have done all of that. I could;d go down to the beach and do it now but I’ll take pass thanks.

    Caution is required when harvesting shellfish. Do not rely on “local knowledge”. http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/biotox/index-eng.html

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  3. Believe me, every single person here asked me four times MINIMUM about red tide and assorted issues. I’m just exhausted from answering the same damn question a million times, particularly when the asker assumes a priori that I am foolish enough to eat things I have not determined are actually safe to eat.

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