Fresh seafood is like a jazz concert in your mouth. And when discussing seafood, it’s a cardinal sin not to talk about mussels. Often referred to as “poor man’s oyster”, no seafood soup in my house is complete without mussels.
The rich taste of the ocean and the melt-in-the-mouth texture make it one of the most widely consumed seafood in the world.
There are several kinds of mussels – blue, black, green, brown, and many more black and green mussels account for the majority of the supply. Whether green mussels are better than the black ones or vice versa is a matter of contention among gastronomes.
In this short guide, you will learn the key differences in terms of taste and texture between black and green mussels.
But before we get to that, let me first clarify what mussels are for those who aren’t familiar with this delicacy (yet).
What Are Mussels, Really?
Mussels are mollusks found in both sea and freshwater. The majority of the mussels you will find in the U.S are rope or net grown, which is why they are available fresh at an affordable price all year round.
Like most seafoods, mussels are an amazing source of lean protein. It’s low-calorie with a negligible amount of saturated fat and carbs – making it a great source of nutrition for weight-watchers.
Moreover, mussels are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, selenium, and manganese.
Mussels are completely safe to eat as long they are thoroughly cooked and you’re not allergic to them.
Now, let’s talk about the individual properties of black and green mussels:
Black mussels are basically a variant of blue mussels with darker-colored shells. The species of black mussels extensively harvested in the U.S, Canada, and South America are called Mytilus trossulus. The other popular variant is Mytilus galloprovincialis which is native to the Mediterranean sea.
Size and Taste
Black mussels are considerably smaller than their green-lipped counterparts. They are typically 2.5 to 3.15” long. Black mussels are noted by their plump meat and intense briny flavor.
You can either steam or pan roast with dry white wine, garlic, lemon, parsley, and some black pepper. Its strong ocean flavor with a hint of tanginess makes it an excellent base for coconut-based seafood curries as well.
Fresh mussels have a firm meat that turns melt-in-the-mouth kind of soft when cooked. Make sure you don’t overcook it or the meat will turn into an unappetizing mush.
Native to the coastal water of New Zealand, the Perna canaliculus variety of green mussels are exclusively farmed in the closely monitored waters in NZ. Another variant called Perna viridis is native to the coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific region.
Due to the exclusive and controlled cultivation and harvesting, green mussels are relatively more expensive and harder to come by than black mussels.
Size and Taste
Green-lipped mussels are around 30% larger than black mussels. Most of the fresh or frozen green mussels you will find here in the U.S are approx 4”-6” in length. Green mussels extracted from the Indo-Pacific region can grow up to 8” long.
Green mussels are characterized by its mild umami flavors, akin to that of mushrooms. Fresh green mussels can be slightly sweet as well. The delicate flavors of green mussels are enjoyed best when steamed with minimal ingredients – white wine, butter, garlic, and lemon juice.
Compared to black mussels, the flesh of green mussels have a much meatier, richer texture to it. Raw green mussel flesh looks chewy but once you steam it, it becomes delectably tender without losing its “bite”.
Final Verdict: Which Mussel Is Better – Black or Green?
It’s both impossible and unfair to give a definitive answer on a topic that’s fundamentally subjective. Black mussels are affordable and easily available all year round. Its strong ocean taste makes it a great base for rich stews and curries.
Green mussels have a more delicate, complex flavor profile with a rich, savory mouthfeel, providing a true gourmet experience. If you are planning or steaming or oven/skillet roasting mussels, I’d suggest going with green mussels.