Greenshell Mussel Festival - Havelock

The greenshell mussel capital of the world each year puts on one of the best food festivals in New Zealand. Stalls full of great food, wine and beer here.

Greenshell Mussel Festival - Havelock

Ever since Paula introduced me to greenshell mussels wrapped in bacon cooked on the barbecue I’ve been a fan. My wife, Paula, and I have been fortunate to have been a part of the festival since its inception in 2005 mainly because it was a part of her personal history. Paula was living in the Marlborough Sounds during the early days of the beginning of the mussel industry working with Beryl Archer seeding the lines with wild mussel spat. The Festival has become like an annual gathering for those who were there in the early days.

One of New Zealand’s top quality sea food delicacies, the green shell mussel, has been lifted to the national festival level . The event takes place in the small Marlborough village of Havelock, known internationally as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of New Zealand.

The past several years has seen the Festival hosting thousands of people enjoying the many styles of mussel preparation being offered and other exciting foods plus a day packed full of entertainment and activities for all ages. It is held on the green down by the waterfront in Havelock.

Over ninety stalls, including arts and crafts, with specialty food stalls serving whitebait, oysters, venison, wild pork and numerous styles of mussel offerings. Monteiths Brewery along with several wineries provide the beer and wines to match the foods available.

While enjoying the fabulous food and drink everyone will be able to experience non-stop entertainment with guest celebraties serving as the MC’s and as the
celebrity judges for the Mussel Industry competitions and on stage the music and dance go on throughout the day. For the children there is a special Kidzone starring Walnut the Clown Show, along with bouncy castle, inflatables, balloon animals, face-painting, and Mr. Whippy.

Don’t miss the popular special mussel events such as the Marlborough Mussel Munch, the Golden Greenshell Mussel Opening Contest and the Sealord’s Mussel Hustle. There will be another Guinness World Record mussel opening attempt. A new record was set at 100 mussels opened in 2 minutes 38 seconds.

You can stroll over to the Mussel Harvest commercial docks to enjoy a first hand demonstration on how the vessels harvest the Marlborough mussels.

The Aoteroa Seafood’s marquee will be where Bill and Sandee Floyd divulge the secret art of creating the “mussel and beer matching” cuisine plus a celebrity chef will be providing details on how to prepare and present the greenshell mussel in order to encourage its finest taste at your table.

The greenshell mussel actually began its commercial days from 1927 being dredged from the muddy bottoms of the Hauaki Gulf and the Firth of Thames peaking in the 1960’s with a catch of around 1000 tons before the beds became overfished. Fishermen in the Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and the Sounds then began mussel dredging operations. When the dredging mussel operation began to run out hand picking from the beaches became the source. It seemed everybody and their brother got into the act.

The marine farming of mussel in New Zealand generated from MAF officer Duncan Waugh visit in 1963 to Spain where he was taken a tour of their blue mussel farming rafts.

On our way to Havelock this year I decided to stop and have a chat with Graeme Coates, the executive officer for the New Zealand Marine Farming Association, at his office in Blenheim. I felt everyone would like to have more information about New Zealand’s only native farmed seafood and its largest seafood export.

Graeme’s background is well suited to represent the industry with a background as an aquatic botanist during the 1970’s and involved in the mussel industry since the late 1980’s. Graeme is a very personable and approachable person. It was indeed a pleasure to have the opportunity to spend time in knowledgeable discussion and be filled in to what happened and is happening with New Zealand’s most internationally famous seafood.

I asked Graeme where he thought the industry was at today and where it was going internationally and here in New Zealand? What are the problems?

The following information was provided:

“The mussel business is booming with last year’s production totaling 95,000 tons with 75,000 tons of that coming from the Marlborough region. There are 645 mussel farms and associated work employing aound 2000 full-time jobs in the district.
Due to government moratoriums on new space the revenue stalled at $300 million
in export dollars. With the new legislation they look for by 2020 earnings in excess of $1 billion.
One of the serious problems faced constantly is in the biosecurity area keeping out the contamination by various organisms that invade the mussel growing and thriving on the mussel farm lines.
The mussel industry is at the forefront of water quality check, control and management with extensive research. The water is so pure, in our farming areas, that we are the only country that can process our mussels direct from the lines to exporting. It is cleaner and greener than organic farming and recognized as the most 'Ocean Friendly' shellfish in the world by American environmental agency Blue Ocean Institute. “

With our desire today to find and enjoy food that is healthy, flavorful and enjoyable
the Greenshell mussel far exceeds any other food. It provides almost everything that is good for you. Low in calories, low in cholesteral, high in the good Omega 3’s and 6’s with 47% of our daily required iron and a perfect source of protein.

The mild and sweet flavour of the greenshell mussel is a compliment to a diverse number of cuisine styles from tapas, paellas, curries or with pasta. We enjoy ours cleaned and wrapped with bacon and barbecued. Only your imagination limits their use. They can be steamed, boiled, baked or fried and still provide an excellent meal.

A Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a pleasant companion or a Mac’s summer ale.
However you may wish to try the Greenshell mussel you will be rewarded with excellence.

So if you are lucky enough to be here during Festival time make sure you drop by Havelock and enjoy the day.

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