If I were to say 'mytiliculture
', would you have already heard of it? Or come to the conclusion 'something-culture' involves the 'growing' of something? You would be right! In this case we are talking about the production, or rather breeding of mussels
is in fact the 'capital' in Bretagne Plein Sud of what is called the 'moule de bouchot
'. The mussels develop in mussel 'parks' - 'fields' of tall posts - the mussels remain on these posts until they reach maturity. Thirty or so companies produce mussels which are set apart from others: by virtue of their size, they are very fleshy and have a distinctive yellowy-orange flesh and excellent flavour - The mussel parks of Pénestin have been awarded the label 'Site Remarquable du Gout
' for the outstanding quality of their produce!
Spotlight on an unusual trade with the staff of Breizh Coquillages
Hello Muriel, could you tell us about your trade?
We like to call ourselves 'sea farmers'. Like other farmers, we grow produce and for this reason, like them, we have a whole lot of preparation to be done beforehand. We have a 'field' where we grow our produce, which we look after to ensure we 'reap' a good harvest.
Tell us what you like about your job?
Working out in the open, the sea is ever changing, each day is different. As we have a shop, I also have the pleasure of actually meeting our customers. I love to help them discover our produce and to show them how we do our work. Our visitors really enjoy this !
How did you first become involved in this trade?
In 1990, having always worked in the building trade, my husband decided to try his hand at mussel breeding. I came to join him in 1994. We worked very hard, we had some difficult times, but we hung on in there. Today, to our great joy we work with two of our children.
How do you see the future of the business?
I hope it will continue. It’s difficult to find seasonal staff and little by little I can’t help but feel we are abandoning traditional methods. Climate change is affecting our work, making things more uncertain.
Could you describe a typical day in the high season for us ?
My children start work bright eyed and bushy tailed at about 3 or 4 a.m. to harvest the mussels. Once the produce is delivered here, some of us do the packing; others sort and do the counter display. I like to make the counter display attractive: I like to think of my customers as 'guests'. We finish at about 7p.m., the days are long, but we really enjoy what we do.
Where do you like to go for a walk?
Along the coast, at Pénestin
to take photos as the landscape colours are ever changing. I also like to wander around the medieval town of Guérande
and along the port at Le Croisic
. 'La Brière
' is magnificent too. I particularly like the area around Saint-Joachim.
Where can we buy your mussels?
In our shop
in Pénestin, or on the various markets: the one in Pornichet and in summer at the farmers market in Kerhinet
, where we also have on offer homemade 'moules-frites' (mussels served with chips).
Which is your favourite recipe for mussels ?
It’s one of the easiest to do in fact! I melt a good sized lump of farmhouse butter and lightly fry some garlic, some shallots and some chopped parsley. Then I add a medium sized pot of crème fraîche from the Ferme du Gaec in Mezerac, and a dash of Muscadet. When my sauce is hot, I add my mussels and I cook them for a few minutes. When I make this recipe, my guests even lick their fingers clean they like it so much !
You can find Muriel at Breiz Coquillages, 9 route de Tréhiguier, in Pénestin, from April to December.