What are Percebes?

The area where the violent seas crash against huge rocky cliffs along the coast of Costa Vincentina are the home of the highly sought after Percebes. In Portugal they are such a delicacy they can cost 3 times the price of Lobster. Highly sought after for a lunch or dinner, it is a true feast to eat them!

The Percebes have a small thumb sized shell attached to a two or three inch leathery leg. To prepare they are lightly boiled and salted with coarse sea salt and eaten by twisting off the leathery coating from the leg and sucking the underlying Percebes off the shell. Their harvesting is very dangerous work. Over the years, many men have been killed trying to reach this prized crustacean.

Men hang down ropes from the top of 300 to 400 meter cliffs, and lower themselves, just to the level of the heaving surf. This spot on the cliff is the home of the tenacious Percebes, that have to be pried off the rocks on which they are securely anchored. Some men use knives, others have devised they own implements, such as tire irons for the job! The only other method of collecting these crustaceans is by diving below the surf line and scraping them from the rocks, at the same time avoiding the pounding surf. Obviously not a very safe occupation! Every fisherman has his favourite, secret place where he gathers them. On Algarve's west coast the fishermen need a licence to gather Percebes, and usually only around 80 licences are issued every year. They are also found in some areas of England where they are called gooseneck barnacles.

Gordon Ramsey has called them one of the greatest delicacies of the sea. Through out the Algarve there are several festivals in mid September to celebrate the highly praised Percebes, one of the most popular being in Vila do Bispo.