Percebes – Goose barnacles

September 2nd, 2015 | Food & Wine

Goose barnaclesPercebes, or goose barnacles are a highly sought-after local delicacy, perhaps at the very pinnacle of Galicia’s wide selection of crustaceans, molluscs and other seafoods. The name ‘goose barnacle’ (or sometimes gooseneck barnacle) is surrounded by many a curious tale. Quite obviously they are named after the barnacle goose, as their shape and colour was thought to resemble the head of this Arctic/North Atlantic bird. As these birds were not native to the UK, and no one had ever seen their nest, it was originally believed that the goose was actually spawned from the barnacles and actually grew on the hull of the old wooden ships! The church was delighted to decree that because this particular species of goose was not born out of flesh, but of the sea, that they could not only be eaten on Fridays, but also throughout the period of Lent. A convenient truth?

If you have no idea as to how difficult (and dangerous) it is to find percebes, then this link is a very good illustration, as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay risks life and limb, absailing down a sheer cliff face in Galicia in an attempt to harvest a mere handful of these tasty treats. It is in the shadow of these cliffs and rocky outcrops where the roaring surf crashes in, that the largest and fattest percebes (the ones that bring in the most money), will develop. The fishermen can make up to €300 per kilo at auction, and, with luck, they can earn €1,000 in a day. But the stakes they play for are high; this is a dangerous way to make a living – on average five people per year will lose their lives gathering these rare, but delicious delicacies. Unlike their near neighbours, the mussels, these crustaceans have resisted all attempts to be bred in a controlled environment. Scientists suspect that they need the tides and crashing waves to survive, which of course, serves only to make them even more expensive.

Tasting goose barnacles for the first time is quite an experience, as the super intense flavour of the sea bursts on your tongue. Then, of course, you next mouthful has to be from a chilled glass of albariño. Perfect.Goose barnaclesPercebes, or goose barnacles are a highly sought-after local delicacy, perhaps at the very pinnacle of Galicia’s wide selection of crustaceans, molluscs and other seafoods. The name ‘goose barnacle’ (or sometimes gooseneck barnacle) is surrounded by many a curious tale. Quite obviously they are named after the barnacle goose, as their shape and colour was thought to resemble the head of this Arctic/North Atlantic bird. As these birds were not native to the UK, and no one had ever seen their nest, it was originally believed that the goose was actually spawned from the barnacles and actually grew on the hull of the old wooden ships! The church was delighted to decree that because this particular species of goose was not born out of flesh, but of the sea, that they could not only be eaten on Fridays, but also throughout the period of Lent. A convenient truth?

If you have no idea as to how difficult (and dangerous) it is to find percebes, then this link is a very good illustration, as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay risks life and limb, absailing down a sheer cliff face in Galicia in an attempt to harvest a mere handful of these tasty treats. It is in the shadow of these cliffs and rocky outcrops where the roaring surf crashes in, that the largest and fattest percebes (the ones that bring in the most money), will develop. The fishermen can make up to €300 per kilo at auction, and, with luck, they can earn €1,000 in a day. But the stakes they play for are high; this is a dangerous way to make a living – on average five people per year will lose their lives gathering these rare, but delicious delicacies. Unlike their near neighbours, the mussels, these crustaceans have resisted all attempts to be bred in a controlled environment. Scientists suspect that they need the tides and crashing waves to survive, which of course, serves only to make them even more expensive.

Tasting goose barnacles for the first time is quite an experience, as the super intense flavour of the sea bursts on your tongue. Then, of course, you next mouthful has to be from a chilled glass of albariño. Perfect.

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