A Guide to Crustaceans, Bivalves and Molluscs, or Why You Should
Be Eating Exoskeleton-Bearing Aquatic Invertebrates
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: The
Best Bug Repellent?
I grew up in
a coastal fishing village in Maine, and one of my favorite memories
is being out on the flats at low-tide, digging for the clams that
would accompany our occasional lobster feasts (back when lobster
was well under a dollar a pound). I can still feel the excitement
of pulling that clam rake up and looking for the tasty bivalves
that would soon become the first course.
We humans like
our shellfish. Nearly every coastal region which hosted humans features
massive shell collections, often called shell heaps, or middens.
You've even got inland piles, like the 11,000-year-old
midden full of snail shells in inland Vietnam, indicating that
even inlanders knew shellfish were worth eating. Back in my marathon
training days, I recall running a mountain trail in Woodside, CA,
ten miles inland, and coming across layers of thousand year-old
strata embedded with all manner of seashell left behind by the coastal
Indian tribes. Because the entirety was just full of seashells,
you had to look closely to discern the individual shells. These
folks definitely liked their shellfish.
a classic Weston A. Price observation, Chris Masterjohn describes
how two perpetually warring New Guinean tribes would broker temporary
peace to trade shellfish for sweet potatoes. The upland tribes would
put aside the spears and bring down some tubers,
while the coastal tribes would relent and offer shellfish. It was
a beautiful arrangement, far more harmonious than the alternative
(which sometimes occurred) – the highlanders selectively hunting
and eating the livers and organs of fishermen of the coastal tribes.
But why? What
can explain the persistent shell middens all over the world, both
inland and on the coasts? Why were there so many seashells embedded
in that Woodside strata? What's so great about shellfish that it
stops multigenerational tribal warfare in its tracks and drives
sweet potato eaters to prize the organs of fishermen who eat it?
sure, but I wouldn't put oysters, mussels, and clams over a grass-fed
shoulder roast, and I doubt the flavor of those New Guinean fisherman
livers reflected the shellfish content of their diet. No, the taste
isn't the driving factor. It's the uniquely dense nutrition inherent
to most shellfish. Since they spend their lives immersed in mineral
rich water, they're excellent repositories of those same minerals,
including zinc, iodine,
selenium, and magnesium, along with vitamin A and B-vitamins (especially
B12). Plus, when we eat shellfish, we're eating the entire animal
(except for the shell). All that muscle meat and digestive tissue
and organ mass slides right down. Humans can get these nutrients
on land through other animals and some plants, but rarely can they
get them in such a concentrated, easy-to-consume form. And you all
know how much we like to make things easy for ourselves.
Let's go down
the list of species and make a case for including shellfish in your
The most nutrient
dense, the most expensive, the perfect accompaniment to lemon and
hot sauce, oysters are truly the stars of the shellfish world. Recent
evidence of an early "oyster bar" puts our infatuation with
the bivalves at around 125,000 years old, which is a pretty strong
track record. The oyster's reputation as an aphrodisiac may have
ground to stand on, as they are the single greatest source of dietary
zinc, which our body needs to make testosterone.
Just four medium
sized Pacific oysters supply a smattering of B-vitamins (including
over 1000% of daily B12), 1200 IU of vitamin A, a third of daily
folate, almost 7 mg of vitamin E, 3 mg copper, 280% of daily selenium,
and 33 mg zinc. That comes with 18 g protein, 4 g fat, 1.5 g omega-3,
0.1 g omega-6, and 9 grams of carbohydrates.
At an Asian
supermarket, I can buy those four oysters, still living, for $0.80
a pop. Or, I can head down to Malibu Seafood and pick up some for
a couple bucks each. As to whether farmed oysters, which make up
of the market, are okay, they're fine. If you remember from
time, I described how most farmed shellfish live totally "natural"
lives, only instead of being attached to a rock they're attached
to an artificial construct. Same water and food, though. Eat these
guys raw and living for the full effect (plus briny goodness). Canned,
smoked oysters are also an option.
to open oysters.
As a New England
native, I'm contractually obliged to sing the praises of the clam.
Now, they aren't quite as nutrient-rich as oysters, but they're
still worth eating for a few reasons. First – the texture. Some
people hate the chewiness; I love it. I can understand if you get
clams cooked to the consistency of rubber, as many restaurants do,
but not every food has to be tender. Frankly, I'd find it a little
unsettling if clams just disintegrated in my mouth. Second, the
versatility. Clams definitely have a flavor – they aren't blank
canvases – but it's a flavor that lends itself to a lot of cooking
styles. Spicy stir fried Asian clams? Yep, works. Steamed with butter,
garlic, and white wine? Great stuff. And of course you've got New
England clam chowder, which – by itself – justifies the presence
of clams on this planet.
nutritious. Fifteen medium raw clams (mixed species) gives a nice
dose of vitamin A, B12, selenium, magnesium, and iron, plus 31 g
protein, 7 g carbohydrate, and 300 mg omega-3.
are farmed, and that's okay.
char chowder, only with clams.
When I was
younger, mussels were more of a low-end shellfish that I avoided
(after all, you could find scads of them clinging to every dock
piling on the East Coast). With their appearance on more gourmet
menus lately, I've taken a shine to them. In the shell, cooked in
white wine, garlic, and butter, with about a cup of savory mussel
broth left over is just incredible and super easy. Fast, too. It
only takes me ten minutes to throw a big batch together. In fact,
I could probably squeeze one in right now... Great. Now I'm hungry
for mussels. Hold on while I fix some.
the rest of the article
June 25, 2011
© 2011 Mark's Daily Apple
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