And no, while I am given to understand that the common name for the plant, vinca, is periwinkle, probably because it comes up with a really neat bluish flower in the spring, I don’t think the plant sometimes named as periwinkle is edible.

No.  My gustatory appreciation of periwinkles pertains to the shellfish.

They are tiny snail-like creatures that live in high tidal regions of oceanic and rocky New England.  Back in the 70’s, when my family summered on the Maine coast, we harvested periwinkles as much as we wanted, when low tide struck.  We truly enjoyed them.

One of my local groceries (Stew Leonard’s, aka the World’s Largest Dairy Store, although they are now so far beyond dairy this is truly a misnomer) was selling these this past Friday.  $2.99 a pound, mind you, including the shell.  I bought .60 of a pound, for old memory’s sake, although heretofore we never bought any — we harvested our own back in the day.

Note nut pick for winkle-pickin…

I don’t get by the shore much any more.  So… a fling.

I simmered these guys for 5 minutes in low-boiling water.  Cooked up 2-3 pats of butter (real butter) with a bit of garlic powder and just the hint of hot sauce.

I recommend using a nut pick, as shown in the first photo, after cooking.  This pulls the snail-like critter out of his den and into your hands.  The initial way is “barred” by something technically known as the operculum, which handily translates from Latin to English as the door.  It’s a nuisance thing.  Don’t fret it.  While these guys are still warm, they pull out of their shells with ease.

Back in the day, I remember leisurely dinners just pulling them out, and eating whatever else was on the table.  We had no TV up there and in the 70’s there certainly was no Internet.  In fact, the first year or two, we had no phone, and certainly no place we had to go to.

Periwinkles aren’t geared for today.  They’re like mini-whelks, but they take time, and require leisure.  I admit I found impatience this weekend, with them.  They’re tasty, but they gear themselves to an earlier mentality.  I had places to go.  Unfortunately, I’m not the same person I once was.  I do regret that.


If you really want to be part of the Slow Food movement, step right on up, and sit down to a tasty meal of periwinkle.  They really are a great food, and my memory of their taste from the ’70s has not in the least faltered.


0.6 pound periwinkles, in shells
3 pats of real butter (pastured — well, the cow, not the butter…)
garlic powder
2-3 small splashes of a good hot sauce

Simmer/semi-boil the periwinkles for five minutes.


Pull the meat from the shells using a nut pick, and discard the operculum/door.

Dip into a butter mix with the garlic powder and the tad of hot sauce, melted and warmed and mixed.

I don’t remember it taking forever back in the 70’s, but it does do that, now.  Be relaxed.  Enjoy.  Converse.  Keep the damn TV off.

4 periwinkles in special butter sauce

On the other hand:  these things are as tastily-GOOD as I remember.


About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: Building a log home in rural western Massachusetts. Will be raising chickens and goats/sheep. Raising veggies and going solar.
This entry was posted in Appetizers, Commentary, Cooking, Seafood and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Periwinkles!

  1. Very very cool – aren’t they also known as cockles and yes buttah is what makes them GREAT!
    So nice to see a fellow foodie eat outside the box. Happy 2012
    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  2. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for rookie blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  3. richard says:

    Winkles (or periwinkles to give them their proper name) are definately not the same as cockles.
    Winkles are molluscs and cockle are bivalves.

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