A while back, someone sent me an image of the strangest looking sea creature, asking if they were edible. And although they looked incredibly unappetizing, I made it my mission to find out what these alien-looking sea creatures were, and if they were, in fact, edible.
That alien-looking creature was none other than the gooseneck barnacle, and it is in fact edible! Not only is this strange looking crustacean edible, but it is out-of-this world delicious. With its sweet, briny flavor similar to a clam, and how abundantly they’re available here on the Oregon coast, this bizarre looking sea creature just moved its way up to the top of my list for amazing coastal eats.
Gooseneck barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that attach themselves to hard surfaces of rocks and depend on water motion, rather than movement, for feeding on plankton. How they got their name is just as odd as the creature itself. It derived from the notion that these bizarre creatures are actually 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 fully formed goslings rose from the sea.
Gooseneck barnacles, although not related to geese, are actually members of the crustacean family, related to crabs and lobsters. They have been prized in Spain for centuries, fetching upward of $100 per pound. So they next time you’re out harvesting mussels here along the central Oregon coast, there’s a very good chance you’ll see these alien-looking creatures secured throughout the rocks as well.
But be sure to always know the rules and regulations when harvesting marine life. Currently, Oregon regulations limit wild harvest of these barnacles to 10 individuals of any size, which isn’t a whole lot but definitely just enough to sample with some of your closest friends.
If you are, in fact, brave enough to harvest these crustaceans, here’s, a quick step-by-step on how to clean and prep your barnacles and a recipe to follow that will surely impress your friends and family and add the title of adventurous eater to your resume.
Step one: Quickly blanch barnacles in salted boiling water for about 45 seconds.
Step two: Immediately remove from boiling water and submerge in an ice bath for up to 5 minutes, no longer. Drain barnacles.
Step three: Open the mouth of the gooseneck barnacle (that white, beak-looking shell at the end) and rinse thoroughly under water to ensure all sand is removed. Ensuring skin has separated from the meat, trim tough outer skin off of barnacle with kitchen scissors (get ready for a splash though because these guys release a lot of sea water when you remove the skin) as well as trimming off the head of the barnacle, which is not edible.
Step four: Slice into bite size pieces then enjoy! You can eat as is or serve with your favorite dipping sauce or broth. I used a variation of one of my favorite beer broths that I typically use for mussels, then topped them with fresh parsley and coarse sea salt, and they were absolutely incredible!