Conwy Mussels (PDO)
The intertwined relationship between the natural environment and human activity is fully appreciated in this remarkable process where sustainability is key. Conwy mussels are harvested by hand-raking the natural mussel beds of the Conwy estuary in North Wales. This gentle, traditional method allows the mussel beds to recover which ensures that they are retained for future generations. The methodical, hand-raking method is tranquil to watch, and means that smaller mussels which are not mature enough to harvest yet fall through the gaps in the rake.
The mussel harvesting boats must be less than 15 metres long, which prohibits large dredging boats being used to collect Conwy Mussels and therefore keeps the practice small-scale and sustainable. Small shallow draft boats traditionally used for fishing (called ‘Dorys’) are used. The hand-raking is carried out on these boats, which are just large enough for one person to board at time. Raking mussels takes time and extreme skill, indeed it can take 5 or 6 seasons to truly master the art of mussel raking. There are just four families that use traditional mussel fishing methods in Conwy. This skill has been passed down through two generations of these four Conwy families for over 150 years.
The care and tradition which goes into the production of Conwy mussels is visible in the end product. Conwy mussels are known for being meaty and juicy with an impressive meat to shell ratio. They have a succulent, rich salty taste with a chewy fleshy texture. The flavour and size of Conwy mussels emanates from their unique environment in the deep Conwy estuary. They are large because they grow in deep water where there are more plankton available for the mussels to feed on, resulting in healthy and strong mussels. The deep estuary also causes the water to circulate which produces an environment with a unique balance of salty sea water and sweet river water.
Conwy mussels joined the GI family in 2016, gaining an esteemed status and helping us to tell the story about this unique produce.
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