Periwinkles an Overlooked - and Tasty - Shellfish

Aug 2, 2013

Periwinkles are not native to our coast. They can make a delicious appetizer, lightly steamed, served with melted butter.
Credit SomeDriftwood / flickr / CC2.0

You find periwinkles in almost every rocky nook of our tidal coastline: small snail-like creatures clinging onto boulders, lining tide pools. Pluck one off and roll it in your palm for a few seconds, then watch as the periwinkle pokes out from its shell as if to get its bearings.

Periwinkles - the common species is littorina littorea - also make good eating, and they are an often overlooking shellfishing resource.

Andy Nebreski, of On The Water magazine, has these tips for the intrepid shellfisherman willing to go beyond the usual fare and try periwinkles:

  • There are more than one species in our waters, but all are edible. Simply look for the biggest ones.
  • Periwinkles make a good appetizer to a summer seafood meal. Rinse them, cover them in just a little water with a bit of salt, and steam them briefly: three or four minutes.
  • Pick them out with a pin or a toothpick and remove the foot - or operculum - then dip them in melted butter and enjoy!
  • Consider them similar to steamers, or quohogs. They could also be served with garlic and tomato sauce on some crusty bread. Or pick out the meats and use them as you would clams in a chowder or fritters.
  • Our periwinkles are not native to our coast. It's believed they were introduced some time after 1840.
  • Periwinkles are commonly eaten in parts of Europe, where there's even a commercial fishery for them.

Audio of The Fishing News is posted above.