Tuesday, 5 January 2010 | Tags:

We do a lot of research for our series Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag. Here are some of the tidbits we've learned about different types of seafood.


  • Pronounced goo-ee-duck, geoducks are soft-shell, burrowing clams distinguished by their long necks (called siphons). They live to about 150 years old.

  • Geoducks are native to the Pacific Northwest, mainly the British Columbia and Washington coasts.

  • They weigh an average of 2-3 pounds, with shells up to 6 inches wide and necks up to 18 inches long.

  • Both farmed and wild geoducks are available, harvested by divers who dig their shells out of the sand.

  • The shells are always open because their bodies are too large to retract.

  • The neck meat has a slightly sweet taste with a crunchy texture. The outer skin is removed before eating.

  • Geoducks are sold live at fish markets to help ensure freshness. Look for geoducks that have a firm and plump siphon. Colour makes no difference and can range from beige to dark brown.

  • Geoduck is best enjoyed raw (popular in sushi and sashimi) or cooked briefly in a stir fry or Asian hot pot. Overcooked geoduck meat becomes tough.

Herring Spawn on Kelp

  • Herring spawn on kelp is produced when herring, a small oily fish, spawn on large kelp fronds that float in the ocean. The eggs adhere to the kelp, and then the kelp is harvested and processed.

  • Herring can be eaten raw, fermented, pickled, smoked and cured by other techniques. The herring is also known as a “two-eyed steak”.

  • Herring are very high in Omega-3 fatty acids and a source of vitamin D.

  • Spawn on kelp has a creamy, delicate sea-like flavour and a crunchy texture.

  • When spawn on kelp is harvested, it’s packed in 100% brine. It can be stored frozen in its brine for up for 1 year.

  • Before purchasing spawn on kelp, ensure that the eggs appear fresh and are translucent and crunchy. Eggs covering one piece of kelp should display a consistent colour and should be strongly adhered to the kelp, not peeling off.


  • Mussels are an elongated, triangular shellfish that measure 2-3 inches in length.

  • They are traditionally marketed fresh in the shell and may be either wild or cultured.

  • Wild mussels are a dull bluish colour with white erosion marks and usually have seaweeds or barnacles attached.

  • Cultured mussels have shiny bluish-black shells that are free of barnacles and seaweeds.

  • Whether wild or cultured, the shells are usually tightly closed but may open slightly when left undisturbed.

  • When purchasing mussels, make sure they smell fresh and salty.

    • Check any open mussel shells by tapping them. If the shells do not close when tapped, this means the mussel has likely perished and should be discarded.

  • Fresh mussels may be stored in the shell in the coolest part of your refrigerator for up to 5-8 days, covered with a damp cloth or wet newspaper to keep them moist. Do not store them in an airtight container or in water, and try to disturb them as little as possible.

    • The less mussels are disturbed, the longer they remain alive.

  • Be sure to wash your mussels well, immediately before cooking.

  • Many people abide by the rule that any mussels still closed after cooking should not be consumed, but some scientists believe this to be more myth than fact.

    • In live shellfish, the abductor muscles keep the two halves of the shell together, but when cooked, the heat breaks down the proteins in the muscles, causing them to come unstuck from their shells.

    • Even if this doesn’t happen, however, the meat has been cooked at a high enough temperature that it is considered safe to eat.

  • You can freeze cooked mussels by shucking them and placing the meat in a freezer container, covered with a brine solution of 1 teaspoon salt to 1 cup of water. Be sure to leave enough room for expansion during freezing. Mussels frozen this way will keep for 3-4 months.

  • If freezing mussels in the shell, blanch them first in boiling water for 20 seconds, then drain and pack them in heavy plastic bags or containers. Mussels frozen in the shell will keep like this about 2 months.


  • Belonging to the mollusk family, octopus are very low in fat and high in protein, vitamin B12, and iron.

  • Because they spoil quickly after catching, fresh octopus is more difficult to find than frozen.

  • If you are able to buy fresh octopus, choose those with mottled-brown skin.

  • Avoid any with a dark purple-black colouring.

  • Two to three pounds of octopus will feed four people.

  • To store, rinse octopus quickly under cold water, shake off excess water, place in an airtight container or on a plate, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

  • To freeze octopus, gut, clean, and wash well. Wrap in freezer wrap, remove air, seal, and date. Freeze for up to 3 months.


  • If you can, choose fresh scallops, especially if you live in an area where they’re available. However, a frozen scallop may be superior to a non-frozen option that is more than a day or so old.

  • Thaw frozen scallops overnight in the fridge. Don’t thaw them in the microwave or at room temperature. In a pinch, you can thaw them by running cold water (not warm or hot) over them.

  • Look for scallops labeled chemical-free or dry packed, since scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution to whiten them. This makes them absorb more liquid.

  • Look for fresh scallops that are an ivory or creamy colour, even as dark as a light tan. Avoid any that are a stark white, which means they’ve had a heavy phosphate treatment.

  • There should also be little or no milky liquid in the tray, which is another sign of heavy phosphate treatment.

  • As with all fish, use your nose. Scallops should have a sweet, briny aroma. A fishy or sour odour means spoilage.

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