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Thousands of different species, flavours to satisfy all tastes and excellent nutritional values: edible molluscs are among the most sought-after and popular foods in the world but, because of their wide variety, their importance in cooking is often underestimated.
Here are ten interesting facts and figures about edible molluscs to help you familiarize with them.
3 is the ideal number of oysters for one person. They are enjoyed at their raw but some foodies dare to gratin them. How? For four people, open the oysters, and keep the liquid to prepare an emulsion with olive oil, lemon and pepper. Arrange the shells in an oven dish, sprinkle them with breadcrumbs, finely chopped garlic, parsley, tarragon and chervil. Pour over the emulsion and pop in the oven preheated to 230° C for 5 minutes. To be served piping hot.
4 minutes is the optimal cooking time for shell molluscs. The basic method consists in heating a fair amount of oil in a pan with a few cloves of garlic. When the garlic starts to colour, add the shells. Once they open, throw in half a glass of white wine and allow it to evaporate.
A temperature of 70 degrees is required to open shell molluscs. Molluscs must be fresh and alive when purchased, which means that the slightly open shell will clamp shut when handled. In this condition they may be eaten raw once the shell is opened by cutting through the outer muscle, and the mollusc is sprinkled with a few drops of lemon juice. Or cooked: the basic rule is to cook them very little and to go be light-handed with the seasoning.
80 Kcal is the energy input provided by 100 grams of molluscs. Very low, for the joy of all those on a diet, but this does not mean they are poor in nutritional value. For example, 100 grams may even contain an average of 12 grams of proteins, 3 grams of fats and a plentiful supply of B Group vitamins (0.12 mg) and vitamin C (17 mg), as well as being rich in iron (5.8 mg), phosphorus (236 mg) and magnesium (65.7 mg).
250 is the number of primary and most widespread species of edible molluscs. Of these, 9 alone account for 85% of the total market. The main mollusc species live in the oceans, comprising gastropods, bivalves and cephalopods, but there are also many tasty varieties living in freshwater habitats: the famous escargot, for instance, or the corbicula fluminea. The latter is a bivalve mollusc typical of Asia which comes from rivers.
110,000 (approximately) are the known species of molluscs on our planet. They are subdivided into 8 categories and all characterized by a soft body which is (usually but not always) housed in a hard structure called a shell.
166,145 tons of Ostreidae are eaten worldwide every year. This is the authentic oyster and the mollusc whose global demand and consumption outstrips all others.
711,000 tons of scallops are consumed throughout the world every year, this being one of the most popular shellfish. These are followed by oysters (166,000 tons) and mussels (143,000). You think that’s a lot? Just consider that shell-less molluscs, such as octopus and calamari, account for a consumption of 4 million tons.
7,500,000 tons of molluscs are eaten worldwide in one year. They occupy the third place in the fish consumption charts. The second place goes to freshwater fish (9 million), while the charts are obviously topped by saltwater fish with 65 million tons.
360,000,000 Euros is the turnover generated by the production of molluscs in France alone, which is incidentally one of the world’s leading producers. Then there are 9300 operators engaged full time in this trade.