The taste test - gooseneck barnacles
WHAT ARE THEY? Gooseneck barnacles, goose barnacles, or, in Spanish, percebes, are little creatures that hang around the Spanish coast. Their rarity means they are tricky to get hold of and, when you can, also pretty pricey. They are gathered by hand with swarthy Galicians lowering themselves into crashing waves to pluck them from amid the rocks. The whole tale of the harvest is pretty romantic (more on it here), but does their taste live up to it?
WHY ARE THEY QUESTIONABLE? They are pretty elusive little beasts and quite unlike any other seafood I have eaten. There is a shell element, what looks like a foot, and a shell-encased neck. After a few minutes in boiling water and a squeeze of lemon, you have to peel the neck and slurp out the rest. They are meant to taste like a combination of oyster and lobster with the fresh salty taste that only comes with the best seafood.
SAUNDERS SAYS: "A big thumbs up. Of course, I wasn't at all swayed by the foodie-bragging points. The name sounds like something out of the profanasaurus. They are like a very sweet razor clam but, at £50 a kilo, it is right up there with the most expensive stuff I have eaten. Worth a try but, if you aren't serving with a magnum of Cristal, stick to razor clams."
SYMONDS SAYS: "Without sounding churlish, those foolhardy barnacle-catchers needn't have bothered on my account. They were OK. The texture of squid and definitely fresh but give me an oyster any day!"
THE VERDICT? If you are a seafood aficionado, give these a whirl. If oysters and whelks aren't your "thing", these won't be either.