Did you know that “clóchina” is the term that refers to the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), which is cultivated in the ports of Valencia and Sagunto?
Before coming to Valencia if you already had any Valencian friend, the chances are you have heard of the “clóchinas”. And surely, not only that, your friend (or girlfriend) will also have talked about their size, their colour, of how different they are from any mussel you may have ever tasted; in short, nuances with more or less scientific rigour, but they have always relied upon much enthusiasm because, for Valencians, “clóchinas” are a delicacy! their taste, their texture… Everything!
But, what is the true origin of the “clóchinas”? What makes them so special?
At the beginning of 1900, in the port of Valencia a trough already existed dedicated to the cultivation of “clóchinas”. It was in front of the dockyards, in tune with the rest of the port activities. So much so that, as the port developed, the troughs also grew to register an optimal number. At present, 22 of these floating platforms coexist in the Valencian Community. These are concessions and all of them are found in the ports of Valencia and Sagunto.
The troughs cannot be on the high seas, they need shelter and sufficient space to guarantee a good harvest. Harvest yes, you have read well, since one of the peculiarities of the “clóchina” is that, despite being a marine mollusc, the terms used by the “clochineros” come from agriculture and not from fishing.
As the Mediterranean water undergoes many temperature fluctuations during the year, it is in the epoch that the cold begins, around the months of September-October, when the seeds (teeny “clóchinas” selected for spawning) are fastened to cords and are immersed in the sea until their collection; which will last from April to September.
Everything that escapes the impositions of nature is measured: there must be a minimum of 70 centimetres between one string and another so that the seeds can obtain the necessary nutrients for their development; the troughs’ decks measure about 25 meters in length; the ideal size of the “clóchinas”, that by the conditions in which they are raised they do not grow much more, is determined by the sieve; the time they spend in the treatment plant until they are packed in sacks (meshes) is between 12 and 24 hours. And this goes on and on, to which the experience of those who cultivate them is also added, an average of 30 tonnes are harvested per season in each trough.
Characteristics and name
In relation to the taste of “clóchina”, the salinity of the water, of more than 30 percent in this part of the Mediterranean, is considered crucial compared to the fresher waters of the Ebro Delta, to put a geographically close example although it has different characteristics being an estuary.
In relation to colour and size, we can compare the “clóchinas” with Galician mussels, to give an example of constantly cold Atlantic water. While Galician mussels are larger and reddish, the “clóchina” is smaller and of a pale orange colour.
But what about the name? Why is this variety of Mediterranean mussel is called “clóchina”? According to tradition, the etymological origin of the “clóchina” is onomatopoeic. It would come from the noise they emit when are being cleaned: “Clo, clo, clo …”. When you order some “clóchinas” in a restaurant, make two of them collide and you will see how they sound … Because, you will not think of leaving Valencia without trying them, right? In addition to how tasty they are, we recommend you eat at least a portion of “clóchinas”, so that it is your own palate that gives you the best definition of texture.
Do not let any Valencian tell you anymore! Surprise them!
Source: Juan Aragonés Just, president of the Association of “Clochineros” of Valencia and Sagunto Ports.
Related article: Steamed Valencian ‘clóchinas’