Sea Foraging in Ireland


Picking by the sea is one of my favourite things to do during the summers months.

Replace your berry basket with a bucket and spade to get started on your sea foraging adventure.

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the Art of picking periwinkles by the sea. This is by far my most loved summer pastime.  Spend your mornings researching the tides. In the afternoon take a stroll or a drive to the seaside to find some delicious delicacies; mussels, cockles, clams, winkles and seaweed are just a few of my top pickings.

If you are familiar with the celebrity chef Rick Stein then you have probably heard of sea shore foraging. Like Rick I spend time in awe of the shell fish that can be found hanging around some of the most popular beaches in Europe. All it takes is a little patience, observation and a sense of adventure to track down some of the tastiest shell fish. To me tucking into a bag of fresh peri-winkles is up there with snacking on a bag of salt and vinegar crisps, without the sugar and additives.


What are periwinkles?

Let us start with a definition. A periwinkle is a small snail like creature, wrapped in a small kilkee-clare-irelandblackish shell. These sea snails are part of a family of over 200 species of sea snails termed the Littorinidae. They are considered a delicacy in Asian and African cuisine. Their meat is high in protein, omega-3 and has little fat. They are often eaten in coastal towns along the Atlantic where they are picked from rock pools.

Where to find Periwinkles

Periwinkles are scattered on, between and under rocks by the sea. They cleverly hide beneath seaweed and other plantlife beside the sea. My favourite spots to pick periwinkles are on the coast of Co.Clare. Depending on how long you want o spend picking and how patient you are when looking for the bigger shells you will definitely locate some edible peris in the shallow waters by the sea rocks. Firstly, don’t forget to bring your plastic bag with you when you are going on a periwinkle picking mission. Many a time I have stumbled upon periwinkles but with no bag to collect them there was no foraging to be done.

If you are on the beach then you are in the wrong area. You need to locate the rocks that jut out into the Atlantic at either side of the beaches. These rocks have shallow rock pools where the periwinkles gather in piles. Bend down low until you can see into the pool. You should see seaweed, seamoss and other sea creatures on the rock floor. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t spot them straight away. As I said, they hide themselves under the seaweed so you will need to rummage a little bit. Periwinkles are a dusty black colour when they are in water. They might be hanging around just beside the pools but to make sure that they are periwinkles you should dip them into the water to see if they turn black.

How to cook Periwinkles winkles

Now that you have collected a batch of peris it is time to cook them. Wash them thoroughly in cold water. Empty them into a pot and add more cold water. It is important to let them boil gently. Again, depending on the size of your collection, it usually takes approximately 1 hour to boil them fully and don’t worry if you overcook. These pungent sea creatures won’t lose their flavour.

Top Tips

  • Although they come from the sea and are pretty salty I always add an extra spoon of salt
  • Don’t forget your collecting bag before you go on your search
  • Don’t mistake white shells for black periwinkles.

If you would like to join us for a unique sea foraging experience in Ireland you can reach out to our travel team anytime.

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