Foraging for Periwinkles: A seashore wild edible full of nostalgia

Periwinkles – Littorina littorea
(In Irish – faochain / gioradáin / miongáin)

Heading out to the beach this week and looking for something wild to bring home? Look no further than periwinkles!

This week, the survival series is back on the coastline where I’m looking at the small treasure that is the common periwinkle.

Common Periwinkles

Though some may cringe at cooking and eating snail-like creatures, these little molluscs are perfect for a quick protein boost. The only problem with them, is that they’re a bit fiddly to eat. Essentially it is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail and they are hardy snails!

Periwinkles have adapted to survive and hide, and can get into the nooks and crannies of tidal pools, right in-between rocks or under seaweed and then can also close off their shell with their operculum (or as I like to see it, their eyelid!)

Where to forage winkles

If you are on the beach then you are in the wrong area. You need to locate the rocks! They can be commonly found in rock pools and all you need to bring with you is a small carrier bag. This snail lives in the intertidal zone of temperate waters.

How to identify periwinkles

Periwinkles are easy to find and forage, and identifying them should be no problem at all.

Identification is also quite simple, basically, you’re looking for periwinkles that are darker in colour (​Black periwinkle – Littorina plena) – I think they’re tastier but that could be just me! The periwinkle will also have a round opening.

How to harvest periwinkles

Super simple: pick them up! You’re more than likely going to have to bend down to get them as often they’re in the rock pools or hiding under seaweed.

How to cook periwinkles

The best way to eat periwinkles is to boil them then with a sterilised needle, skewer the inside of the periwinkle and pull it out to eat.

Recipe: Gently Boiled Periwinkles

Ingredients

  • As many winkles as you’d like!
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: kombu seaweed

Special equipment

  • Sterilised needle

Method:

  1. Wash the winkles several times in cold water to remove impurities!
  2. Then in a pot, boil in plenty of water along with a good sprinkling of sea salt and bay leaf. If you’ve access to dried kombu I’d recommend adding some too for extra sea flavour. The winkles are quick to cook and only take about 3-4 minutes in boiling water.
  3. Once cooked, take them out of the pan and use a pin to extract the meat from the shell.

Periwinkle benefits

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low in fat
  • Rich in protein

As always, be careful when foraging and make sure you don’t gather food from a source that is close to a sewage line.

Happy foraging!

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/Eirian Evans)

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