February is when Scotland’s oysters and mussels are at their best. You can often spot the blue-black wild mussels almost anywhere around the coast at low tide, clinging to rocks or piers in tight clusters. Farmed mussels are grown on submerged ropes and tend to have more meat than their wild counterparts. Also worth looking out for is the horse mussel or ‘clabbie doo’ (from clab-dubh, the Gaelic for black mouth). These are much larger than common mussels and are only found in certain parts of the country.
Carefully prepared and cooked, the mussel’s sweet and salty orange-coloured flesh makes a fine starter, lunch or main course. Common restaurant dishes featuring mussels include moules marinières and moules provençale and of course, paella. If you want cook them yourself, mussels are readily available from fishmongers and supermarkets in larger towns and cities.
Although nowadays seen as a luxury item, oysters used to be a cheap working-class food, often baked into pies with beef and other meat. There two main varieties, the Native and the Rock (or Pacific) oyster, with the former considered the superior.
Although restaurants occasionally serve them cooked (often grilled), the best and simplest way to enjoy their marvelous salty taste of the sea is eaten raw from the shell with just a sprinkling of lemon juice.