This immediately demands explanation …
The litoral translation of Pouce-pieds is ‘Thumb-foots’ …. but the actual translation is ‘Goose Barnacle’. A couple of years ago I remember Bill Odie wandering along a British beach and coming across a log encrusted with “Goose Barnacles” !
It never crossed his mind that these creatures were actually very tasty !
These ‘Goose Barnacle’ look quite prehistoric ! the bony looking head opens up and a number of “frilled legs” come out to filter the water
You may have seen Jerremy Clarkson sampling them during his ‘Meet the neigbours’ series when he visits Spain, some good footage showing the fishermen
The part you eat is the inside of the long leathery finger, it’s quite easy to hold the white head and snap the outer case off, leaving you with the tasty inside
They thrive in conditons where the waves strike the rocks between low and high water, which means pretty much where it is very dangerous to collect them !
The west coast of France is no éxception … and I was soon introduced to a number of closely guarded spots where it was possible to harvest the Pousse-pieds. A kayak is certainly an advantage, we are able to get much closer, but invariably it involves a swim. There is one exception I recall where I found a huge cave lined with Goose barnacles, I harvested enough for two meals before finding myself suspended from my paddle wedged across the width of the cave when the swell dropped.
It was in this particular cave that I found the frilled legs tickling my arms as I ripped them off the rocks ! …. and can you believe they bleed ! Yes a dark pink ‘Blood’ runs freely as you pluck them, It seems they have no vocal cords, I heard no screams
After the hard work of collecting I asked what I could expect … It was a unanimous response, a subtle blend of flavours from Crab to Lobster Woow
The Verdict … You will find a dozen or more recomendations
1) Eat raw Yes tried it and yes good … it is not best
2) Boil water throw in Pousse-pieds then pull out and eat ….. This is what does it for me ! Absolutely superb !
3) Boil water with Pousse-pieds in, boil for 1 minute
I found method 3) lost many flavours, and in method 1) not enough flavours to develop …. but with method 2) they really are superb ! Now I like to dip my Pousse-pieds in a home made mayonnaise !!! Wow
OK any downsides ….
Yes of course, in France there is a Season for ‘Pousse-pieds’ it is from November to March ( Yes you guessed … when the west coast is at its worst ! )
The Plus sides ? Pousse-pieds sell around €300 per kilo in Spain
A quick edit to get the the French correct ! I have Changed ‘Pousse’ for the correct French word for ‘Thumb’ which is ‘Pouce’
When searching on the internet the French Wiki notes:….
“Il existe de nombreux noms vernaculaires pour cet animal : pouce-pied (ou pousse-pied, poussepied), qui viendrait du fait que le pédoncule ou pied ressemble à un pouce dressé, mais aussi operne, pied de biche, lanperna au Pays basque et pas-e-bez en Bretagne.”
So both spellings are correct, but ‘Pouce’ is the correct translation for Thumb