Mejillón de Galicia
Mejillón de Galicia aka Mexillón de Galicia is a Spanish DOP fresh mussel of the species Mytilus galloprovincialis, cultivated using rafts.
This is a bivalve mollusc whose shell consists of two identical valves of calcium carbonate covered by a layer called the periostracum. The high productivity of the Galician rías [flooded river valleys] generates a wealth of marine flora and fauna, as a result of which species such as barnacles, polychaets, bryozoans and algae often adhere to the periostracum.
The meat inside is normally creamy orange in colour and comprises two fleshy lobules with a sinuous dark violet band running along the edge.
In order for the mussels to be covered by the Protected Designation of Origin Mejillón de Galicia when they reach the fresh-consumption market, they must pass through a purification/dispatch centre in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 853/2004. They must also be purified using sea water from the Galician rías in the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra to ensure that the quality and characteristics deriving from geographical factors linked to cultivation remain unchanged.
The cultivation area will be the internal maritime area of the Galician rías in the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra, which are authorised to cultivate mussels using rafts. It will comprise the following areas: Ría de Ares-Sada, Ría de Muros-Noia, Ría de Arousa, Ría de Pontevedra and Ría de Vigo. The purification/dispatch area is the coastal provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra.
Method of production
This will be the traditional method used in Galicia. It is carried out on board a floating structure called a raft [batea], which has a maximum surface area of five hundred and fifty square metres. The ropes may not exceed five hundred in number and will be no more than twelve metres in length.
The cultivation stages will be: obtaining the seed, pre-fattening the seed, thinning and harvesting. Once the cultivated molluscs attain marketable size and condition, the mussel ropes suspended from the raft are raised (until then, they have been submerged in the sea). This is done using hydraulic cranes located on board the auxiliary cultivation boats. The ropes are hoisted and immediately handled so that the mussels are removed from them.
Once on land, the entire batch undergoes random testing by the inspection services in order to determine the product's yield and classification, and to ensure that all the obligatory conditions have been met. This process is documented and registered, and will accompany and identify the batch.
Mussels from a cultivation area which, for microbiological purposes, is classified as area ‘B’, will be required to be taken to a purification centre where they will be purified using water which must come from the Galician rías in the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra. If the mussels come from a cultivation area classified for microbiological purposes as area ‘A’, they may be dispatched directly to the market from a dispatch centre. In both cases, the centres are responsible for conditioning the mussels so that they meet the requirements in Regulation (EC) No 853/2004.
Once the mussels have been conditioned so that they meet the market-entry criteria (i.e. once they have been purified and had the byssus removed, as appropriate), they are handled and conditioned in a conventional atmosphere, under vacuum, or in a protected atmosphere. They are presented in accordance with market requirements, using materials authorised under applicable legislation, in different formats and weights which form independent sales units. A control label and tamper-proof seal are attached to the latter for the purposes of guaranteeing traceability.
Packaging must take place in the geographical area described above. This restriction is justified for the purposes of preserving product quality, given:
— the perishable nature of the product
— its susceptibility to degradation
— the high risk of deterioration due to improper handling
In addition, the mussels must be purified using sea water from the Galician rías in the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra in order to ensure that the quality and characteristics deriving from geographical factors linked to cultivation remain unchanged. The purification / dispatch centres will accordingly be located near the coast.
Furthermore, these will be ‘any on-shore or off-shore establishment for the reception, conditioning, washing, cleaning, grading, wrapping and packaging of live bivalve molluscs fit for human consumption’.
Historical link: mussels have from earliest times been a food source for the first inhabitants of the Galician coast. There is ample evidence of this in the castros [fortified villages] and in historical documents (Navaz, 1942, Vázquez Varela and García Quintela, 1998, VVAA 1988 and 1998, Senén- López Gómez, 1999). Following on from these beginnings, one should highlight that mussels have featured in the most outstanding gastronomic events from the past (e.g. at the Spanish Hapsburg court, in escabeche real). There is no doubt that the history of Galicia and its coast is closely linked to mussels.
This relationship thus dates back to the sixth century BC and continues to the present day, as evidenced by the multitude of place-names, personal names and gastronomic festivals (mejillonadas), etc. Galicia's very landscape would be inconceivable today without the rafts in its rías, reflecting the development of the mussel sector.
A specific vocabulary with words deriving from mussel cultivation has even been coined: mexilla (breeding of mussels) etc. Such is the historical tradition that it has engendered a specific system of cultivation which is recognised internationally as the Galician system, with equipment and materials of dedicated design, and traditional working methods which result in a distinctive product (López Capont, 1973; López Capont and Fidalgo Fernández, 1977; Otero Pedrayo, 1980; Lorenzo, 1982; Calo-Lourido, 1985 a, b and c).
Natural environment: the Galician rías are considered to be ecosystems and have significant primary production, involving the cultivation of bivalve molluscs and mussels in particular. These species are low down the food chain, which is essential in order to obtain large yields. Differences in production (growth and meat yield) observed in mussels in the Galician rías are due to physiological adaptive processes connected with nutrient absorption (Fernandez Reiriz and Labarta). The unique quality of mussels cultivated in the Galician rías is due to their adaptation to the characteristics of the ecosystem where they are cultivated, and is directly linked to food availability and quality.
Reference: The European Commission