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How Do You Purge Freshwater Mussels (And Other Shellfish)

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by Lisa Morgan (subscribe) life as it is meant to be experienced - outside the rat race, barefooted and content in one's own skin.
Published January 31st 2013
Forget the cornmeal, oats and salt just use clean water
Freshwater Mussels or Clams
What freshwater mussels look like!
On a recent trip across the Far North, we came across large black freshwater mussels. As we are avid shellfish eaters, we collected a bucketful and headed home eager to cook them.

It is common knowledge that shellfish should be "purged" in preparation for eating. This purging expels the sand, grit, and mud from inside the shells. This process typically takes 30 minutes, in a bucket of clean water.

What isn't common knowledge however is that purging also helps to remove bacteria and other microorganisms within the shells this is why purging for 12-24 hours is ideal, with frequent water changes.

One misconception about the act of purging is that it makes shellfish sick, so they "purge" out their guts. Operating under this logic, many people add salt to the purging water. Unfortunately, this only works for saltwater clams, mussels, oysters and other shellfish. The reason this works is because they are native to salt water. If you don't have clean sea-water to purge your saltwater catch in, then add salt to the purging water.

Purging Freshwater Mussels in Freshwater
Purging freshwater mussels in clean freshwater.
When it comes to purging freshwater mussels, do so in clean freshwater. Don't add salt! Freshwater shellfish really do not like salt, they just clam up even more tightly and won't allow the salt water in. This is what they do when exposed to air as well. It is a survival mechanism.

Warning if any of the mussels float in the water, do not eat them! Dead mussels release gases causing them to float when they die, so throw these ones out. Discard shellfish with broken shells as well.

Purging is not anything special or fancy done to the shellfish. It is simply allowing them to carry out their natural function of filtering and cleaning the water they live in. All that needs to be provided is clean water, so you know they are filtering out the mud and gunk they picked up from living in muddy lakes and creeks. If you bypass this step, you'll end up with a mouthful of mud or gritty sand when it comes to eating time!

Want to know more about freshwater mussels? Check this out!

Want to know how to hunt freshwater mussels in Far North Queensland? Spot the signs.

Want to know how to cook freshwater mussels? Here is my favourite recipe.
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Why? Because nobody wants to eat a mouthful of mud and gritty sand!
When: Anytime!
Where: All over Far North Queensland
Cost: Free if you hunt them!
Your Comment
Hi, we got some from Tinaburra. Would they be ok to eat? Regards, Serena.
by motla (score: 0|4) 1778 days ago
I got a few from the north umpqua here in oregon would they be safe to eat?
by Eunic (score: 0|3) 1717 days ago
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