Food & Drink

David Beckham tucks into alien-looking percebes in Spain – what are they?

David Beckham is a fan of this unique and expensive crustacean.

David Beckham has been pictured eating percebes
David Beckham and percebes David Beckham has been pictured eating percebes

David Beckham has been pictured eating a rather unusual-looking delicacy.

The former footballer posted snaps on his Instagram stories of morsels that admittedly look rather alien-like.

These are percebes – what Beckham calls “one of my favourite things to eat when in season” in Spain. And it would seem like Beckham knows what he’s talking about – in the recent Netflix documentary tracking his life and career, he was revealed as a keen cook and foodie.

David Beckham has been tucking into percebes in Spain
David Beckham David Beckham has been tucking into percebes in Spain

Percebes go by many names – including goose barnacles, leaf barnacles and even Lucifer’s fingers. They’re strange in appearance, with a dark, rubbery stem and a white head that looks a bit like a goose’s beak.

They look interplanetary, but are actually a rare type of crustacean. They’re notoriously difficult to source: percebes are chipped off rocks in often dangerous coastal spots along the western European Atlantic coast – the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) in Galicia, Spain, is a famous hotspot for harvesting the barnacles.

Harvesting percebes often involve scaling dangerous cliff faces, getting buffeted by waves and even going underwater. This means they’re relatively expensive – and the bigger the barnacle, the more money they’ll fetch, as they contain more meat.

Percebes (Alamy Stock Photo)

Percebes are most common in Spain and Portugal – particularly around the seaside areas where they’re harvested. According to The Fish Society, one 250g pack – which contains around 10-30 barnacles – will set you back £24.50.

“A large barnacle is usually about seven centimetres long,” The Fish Society says.

If you’re cooking percebes at home, the process is simple – all you have to do is boil them in salted water for a few minutes and they’re good to go. Most recipes suggest keeping things simple – eating them as is, squeezing over some lemon, or garnishing with herbs like parsley.

Percebes (Alamy Stock Photo)

The flavour is apparently incredibly salty – percebes are said to be basically the closest things you can get to tasting the sea – while also being like a cross between lobsters and clams.

To eat the alien-like barnacles, you squeeze the hard shell to make the flesh come out.

If you do decide to splash out and try these strange delicacies at home, be warned – The Fish Society says: “We should tell you that you will get a certain amount of genuine rock (as in, the cliff) in your pack because the barnacles are very firmly attached to it and would be damaged if removed before cooking.”