The mussel is a member of the clam family and has an elongated blue-black shell. Mussels, an excellent source of protein, can be fried, stewed, steamed and baked. They can be used in most recipes that call for oysters or clams. The byssus is a dark threadlike matter attached to the meat, used by the mussel to attach itself to rocks. It is the only inedible portion of the mussel's meat and must be removed before eating. Before harvesting wild mussels, check with the local fish and wildlife department to determine if there are any harvesting restrictions.
Look for live mussels, as they must be cooked live.
Seek mussels with tightly closed shells or mussels that snap shut if you tap the shell. Avoid mussels with cracked shells.
Touch the shell and smell it. It should be moist, shiny and smell like the ocean.
Pick up several mussels, comparing the weight in your hand. Avoid a mussel that feels much heavier or lighter than the average weight of the mussels.
Before cooking, discard any mussels that have opened and don't close.