Anyone who has not tried these delicious delicacies before, would be forgiven for giving them a wide berth should you innocently stumble across them in a Galician fish market. But although percebes are often described as slightly odd looking, they are known to reduce seafood fans to a bunch of salivating shipwrecks. Those in the know say that they have a sweet lobster taste and are usually boiled and served piping hot – washed down with a glass or two of the local Galician Albariño wine, of course.
However, gooseneck barnacles are notoriously difficult to find as they thrive on rocks that are constantly battered by the sea, meaning that the weather beaten coastline of Galicia’s Costa da Morte is an ideal breeding ground for these courageous crustaceans who make it their business to cling so precariously to the rocky shore. So as you can imagine, harvesting them is a laudable triumph of great difficulty and bravery. Fishermen who collect these wild barnacles are called percebeiros and risk their lives on a daily basis in the perilous pursuit of the percebes. After mooring their boats near suitably jagged rocks, the percebeiros launch onto them, carefully dodging the waves that could easily drag them along as they collect what must be one of the most dangerous of harvests anywhere.
The difficulty of obtaining these elusive delicacies, matched with their popularity amongst food lovers, is reflected in the price, meaning a plateful can command as much as 100€ in a restaurant. On a good day, a skilful fisherman can make a lot of money for a few hours work – which explains exactly why they are willing to take such risks. The fact that this seafood is a firm favourite on the Spanish Christmas table too, adds another serious challenge for the percebeiros, as it means they have to brave the worst of the year’s weather in order to gather the most important catch of the year. So next time you’re in Galicia and fancy trying something different, why not order a steaming hot plate of goose barnacles and see what all the fuss is about.