October is always an exciting month for me, as I am a major enthusiast of local seafood. Growing up in the Santa Barbara area, I have, over the years, gained a great appreciation for what our local waters have to offer and the hard work that goes into bringing the sea's fresh offerings to our kitchens. Just like with produce, getting your seafood as fresh as possible makes all the difference when it comes to quality and results. Local fishermen J.R. Gorgita, Sam Shrout and Bernard Friedman regularly supply the Saturday farmers market in Santa Barbara, bringing in their freshly caught goods.

This month marks the opening of lobster and shrimp season. Also in the mix this time of year are freshly harvested local mussels, brought in weekly by Mr. Friedman. I tried these mussels for the first time last weekend and they were, without a doubt, the best I'd ever tried. Unbelievably tender for mussels and loaded with natural flavor, these will regularly be on my shopping list.

Fresh mussels are quite nutritious. While they do contain cholesterol, they are packed with protein and iron and contain hearty amounts of vitamins C and A and calcium.

Mussels, which may be cream to dark orange in color, are amazingly sweet and are usually steamed and served in their deep black shells, baked with a crumb topping or used in salads. But they're also great when served over thin pasta noodles and topped with a garlic, lemon grass and heirloom tomato sauce.

Sam Edelman is general manager of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association. His column appears every Thursday. E-mail him at food@newspress.com.

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