Saturday 25 August 2012

A Gander at Goose Barnacles

The fascinating organisms pictured, are goose barnacles. We found them, while on holiday, washed up on the otherwise uniformly empty and sandy shore of Boyndie bay.

We had never seen goose barnacles before and found them quite beautiful, if a little alien. Although we didn't attempt to eat them I wondered if they would be anything like the barnacles that the Spanish, particularly of the Galicia region, risk life and limb to collect from wave-battered rocky inlets. Because of the great difficulty and danger involved in collecting them, the Spanish variety - known as percebes - fetch premium prices in their bustling fish markets.

It looks like the ones we found were the pelagic gooseneck barnacle variety Lepas anatifera. The stems of these are, apparently, edible. But, because the stems are so thin and not very meaty, they would probably just be a load of messy hassle to prepare. The Spanish variety, in stark and expensive contrast, are apparently simple to cook - just boil up for a few minutes in some sea-water - and deliciously salt-meaty. Just be sure to pull the crunchy head off.

I have just read, with some incredulity, that goose barnacles are so-called because it was thought in the (I hope distant) past that Barnacle Geese developed from them! Tiny geese, spontaneously erupted from the driftwood, one day to fledge and take flight: charmingly naive notion on the one hand and disturbing autogenesis-like concept on the other.

Well we did say they looked alien.

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