Gooseneck Barnacles - Gastro Obscura

Meats & Animal Products

Gooseneck Barnacles

These expensive and dangerous-to-harvest barnacles were once confused for goose eggs.

That’s no dinosaur toe; it’s a gooseneck barnacle! This crustacean has a long neck that is arguably more delicious than actual goose neck, but the name stems from the notion that these bizarre creatures are goose eggs. Unable to observe certain geese’s far-away breeding grounds, medieval naturalists in Europe believed that when goslings were ready to hatch, these barnacles would fall from their rocky perches and—voilà—fully formed goslings rose from the sea.

Europeans call the barnacles percebes, and in Spain and Portugal, they fetch a pretty penny. Combined with a lack of economic opportunities, this lures fishermen in Galicia, Spain, to Costa de la Muerte—the Coast of Death. As the name suggests, multiple sea-battered men have died among rough waves and strong tides while prying these prized morsels from beneath the water line.

Connoisseurs regard gooseneck barnacles as such a delicacy that the price—up to 100 euros per plate, and the occasional human life—is worth the risk. Diners grasp freshly steamed barnacles by their shelled foot and dip them in bowls of hot, melted butter. They taste like sweet lobster and have the characteristic chew of bivalves. 

To eat a percebe, grasp the shell, tear off the skin encasing its neck, and be aware that you’re sitting in a splash zone. Each time you remove a gooseneck barnacle’s casing, expect a spurt of brine. If you find a baby goose inside, then the medieval naturalists were onto something after all.

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