The Surprise of Saltwater Mussels and Opihi (Limpets)

Mussels and Fries
Mussels and Fries, fresh from the sea

One of my favorite aspects of hunting and fishing, aside from food, is the unpredictability and adventure that always seems to appear anytime I step out of the house with my gun or fishing rod. In my mind, I always have an exact idea of how I want the trip to play out. I plan ahead, “I am going to hunt this specific area and a deer should appear from the southwest corner of the property.” Sometimes I over plan, “The tide is high at exactly 2:35pm today, so I should be able to fish my chartreuse sandworm lure exactly 3 feet off of the bottom and I will certainly land fish.” I am always my biggest cheerleader and almost always my biggest critic when the plan falls apart because… well… because, that is just part of the adventure. The environment is ever changing, the weather patterns alter, and animal behavior is not exact in the minute details. Being in the outdoors is an ever changing challenge which leaves many hunters and anglers frustrated. We have all been there, so frustrated or disappointed you want to pack it all in, but you don’t. You know why? Because you believe that adventure is around the next bend, because one more cast could land that bass, or that the a turkey will gobble back at the next call.

Sometimes, this does happen. Sometimes your skill and your luck combine for the briefest of moments and leaves you standing proud, like the true outdoorsmen or outdoorswoman that you are. Often, a suggestion from a friend or mentor may just give you that upper hand that you needed. Have you ever heard the term, “You can’t see the forest because of the trees.”? As a hunter and angler you must learn to not only see the forest but live within the forest, in a hypothetical sense of course. You must understand your environment and truly grasp what it has to offer as a whole. There are many people out there with a wealth of knowledge in different areas. Tap those knowledge spigots and learn. Here is a prime example of my own scenario where my day of fishing was not going as planned and then, because of a friend, it made a change for the better.

First off, I would like to introduce Jake Deardorff. Jake is the newly appointed Creative Director of Harvesting Nature. Jake has an outstanding and impressive background in art, photography, film, graphic design, and also has a true passion for the outdoors. Much of the artwork and some of the photography you see in the future will, no doubt, be contributed by Jake. He will be playing a lead role in the product design and development of new material as well as helping us drive forward the overall ethos of Harvesting Nature. So, with that said, let us welcome Jake and continue with the story.

The Harvesting Nature Blue Logo Shirt in Action. Click here to get yours today!
The Harvesting Nature Blue Logo Shirt in action. Click here to get yours today!

In this story, Jake is the friend that changed the course of the day. He and I had planned to meet-up to discuss some projects and maybe do some photography. We were going to meet-up at a local coffee shop. Then, the bright idea materialized to hit the beach for some surf fishing. I told Jake that I often go surf fish with light tackle and usually catch several surf perch for the grill. So, with that plan intact we met-up at a local beach and began fishing. We worked our way up the beach casting and slowly reeling the line back in. We used artificial sand worms which normally perform well with the surf perch. We spent about an hour and a half until we reached a rock jetty. At this point, we had only received a couple of bites and were almost done fishing. Jake suddenly exclaimed, “Look at those opihi!” I looked at him with my head cocked sideways, “Opi-what?”

Opihi aka Limpets

Jake went on to tell me that Opihi is the Hawaiian name for what are scientifically known as limpets. The are essentially rock slugs which have one long circular shell on their back. They are often consumed in Hawaii and are considered a delicacy. He looked at me and said, “Do you want to try them? They are really good just cooked over the BBQ with some chili sauce.” I shrugged my shoulders, “They definitely sound better than having no fish to eat in comparison.” I used my phone to verify that we could legally collect limpets in California. Based on our regulations, you can legally harvest limpets and most bi-valves by hand or hook and line only. This means you cannot harvest these little guys with a knife or screw driver, so I encourage you to check your local regulations.

We fumbled with our hands, but were able to harvest some of the Opihi which we placed in a bucket with a little seawater on the bottom. You want to avoid putting sand inside, as it will get stuck inside their shell. While we were collecting Opihi, Jake noticed that there were also saltwater mussels living on the rock jetty. Many of them were large enough to harvest, so we collected enough for a meal. Be sure to check your local regulations and conduct some research before harvesting or consuming shellfish, some can be illegal to harvest or toxic during certain times of the year.

Salt Water Mussels

I am familiar with cooking mussels so I was not as intimidated as I was with the Opihi. Now, our day had changed for the better and we saw the forest and the trees. We headed back to my house to clean and prepare our feast. For me, this was definitely an experimental meal, to say to least. I was truly impressed at the freshness and taste of both the Opihi and mussels. My two year old daughter, who accompanied us while fishing, even decided to eat some of the mussels! Overall, I think I will harvest more again for a meal in the future!

Grilled Opihi

BBQ Roasted Opihi

Ingredients:

1 dozen opihi (limpets), larger than a half dollar

Sriracha

1 lemon

Soy sauce

Preparation:

  1. Heat your coals on the BBQ
  2. Place the live opihi upside down on the grate over the coals
  3. Quickly add the lemon juice, a dash of soy sauce, and a Sriracha to taste
  4. Allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes
  5. The will separate from their shell and turn an opaque color when fully cooked
  6. Remove from the grill and eat immediately.

Mussels and French Fries (Moules-frites)

Ingredients:

Mussels (Salt or Freshwater)

½ bottle of white wine

1 stick of butter

5 garlic cloves, minced

½ onion, minced

1 tablespoon of parsley

3 large white potatoes

1 sprig of fresh Rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil for frying

1 baguette or loaf French bread for dipping

Preparation:

  1. Scrub and clean your mussels to remove all the smaller mussels, barnacles, and beards. You can cut the beards off with scissors. Toss out any mussels which do not close when gently tapped
  2. Utilize a mandolin slicer with a small julienne attachment or use a grater with a similar attachment to thinly cut the potatoes. (A mandolin slicer is one of my most used kitchen utensils and should be found in every kitchen)
  3. Bring your oil to heat in a large pan and begin cooking your pomme frites (French fries) in batches. Add one sprig of rosemary to infuse the oil while cooking.
  4. Add the butter, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and wine to a large pot
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil
  6. Add the mussels to the mixture, reduce heat, and allow to cook for 5 – 10 minutes
  7. Stir occasionally until all the mussels appear to be open. Discard any mussels which do not open. These are were dead prior to cooking and can make you sick.
  8. Remove to mussels and top with the butter wine sauce
  9. Serve pomme frites on the side and the bread to dip into the sauce.

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