I was a raving fan of these delicious morsels long before my first trip to New Zealand---the mollusks are wildly popular with chefs throughout the world, especially in foodie-centric California. While I an enchanted with the mussels' emerald green color, I'm most taken with their luscious taste, along with the fact that their meat-to-shell-ratio is higher than other species. One of the largest mussels on the globe, New Zealand's green variety can grow up to 9 inches in length...making for a meal in themselves.
The green-shelled New Zealand variety is unique to the cool, clean waters of the country's sheltered sea which is replete with a plethora of tiny inlets and islands. On my recent trip I learned that their mussel industry is valued in excel of 230 million US bucks. Apparently, it is one of the fastest growing businesses in the nation.
I also learned that this industry operates within some of the strictest quality standards in the world. Green mussels from New Zealand are 100% organic. They are cultivated in their natural environment and laws prevent additives, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or any artificial feed. (Too bad the shrimp industry in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam don't subscribe to the same rules.)
If you're joining the Wine-Knows group going to New Zealand for the grape harvest in March 2014, we'll be visiting a mussel "farmer." At the "farm" (located in the drop-dead gorgeous Marlborough Sounds---2,500 surface miles of sounds, islands and peninsulas), we'll learn all about the famous bivalve, and taste different preparations paired with the local Sauv Blancs and Pinot Noirs.