Limpets – The Tasty Steadfast Coastal Rock-dwellers
Foraging for food: Tasty little morsels protected by pyramid-shaped shells
A little about limpets…
These surly shellfish are can be found clinging for dear life on intertidal rocky ground all along the coast. As with all molluscs, they should only be picked during months with an ‘r’ in them – between September and April.
This significantly reduces the chances of being poisoned, which nobody in their right mind would want.
They use their ‘foot’ to hold tight to the rocks they’re usually found on, and they stick tight. Really tight.
The best way to dislodge them is to get a thin bade such as one from a pocket knife, wedge it slightly between the rock and their thick shell, and quickly bash the knife with something solid, like a rock.
But be very careful – it’s not worth slicing your hand open for the sake of a small salty morsel.
Limpets were one of my very first attempts at foraging for food, and possibly one of the most successful efforts to date.
After consulting my coastal foraging bible, Edible Seashore, I learned what I needed to know about limpets and set off on my ‘hunting’ trip.
Through various walks along the beautiful beaches we have here in Wales, I’d noticed these small pyramid-like creatures hugging their rocky homes, but never really gave them much thought.
They were pretty easy to find, and I soon found a few decent sized limpets – about the size of a ping-pong ball – at about chest height on a large rocky outcrop.
I reached for my trusty Leatherman.
Flicking out the blade, I positioned the tip right next to the edge of the shell (I didn’t want to actually touch it, yet, as this would disturb the little sucker and make it cling harder than ever).
With a swift bash of the pocketknife with a small rock, the limpet was unlodged from its home and went flying down to the sand.
I picked it up, stuffed it into a carrier bag I’d brought along, and repeated the process a few more times.
I couldn’t wait to get back, so I briskly walked homeward along the beach, ready to feast on my gatherings. Foraging for food is hungry work, after all…
While the pan of water was boiling, I cleaned the sand away from the limpets and dumped them into their hot bath to await their culinary fate.
They looked a lot different after a few minutes in boiling water.
Before, they were slimy, meaty-looking chunks, but now they were shrivelled up morsels of coastal delight.
Eager to try them, I slipped one out of its shell, popped it into my mouth and bit down.
It was like chewing on salty leather.
I continued munching away until I was ready for them to meet my stomach.
Not the greatest tasting of things, but not bad, either. I’ll definitely be gathering some more limpets in the near future.
Verdict: A very chewy taste of the sea. Maybe I boiled them for too long, but they weren’t too bad. I’d imagine they’re excellent served with a few simple condiments like salt and lemon juice. My next attempt will see me purifying them to spread on hot buttered toast. For a sustainable food source, limpets are an easy forage – just don’t pick too many at once.
Have you encountered limpets when out foraging for food? How did you use them? Share your experiences in the comments section below!