A small gastropod mollusc that is very common in the Atlantic and the Pacific, the periwinkle resembles the snail and moves in a similar fashion. Since periwinkles do not move around during the day, it is best to fish for them at night. They live in colonies among coastal rocks and crevices, and attach themselves to the pillars of wharves just below the surface of the sea.

The small spiral shell of the periwinkle is thick and smooth. Closed by a bony protective plate called an operculum, it can be brown, greyish, or blackish with black or reddish spirals, depending on the species. Periwinkles are mature enough to be eaten when they measure approximately 2 - 3 centimetres across.


Fresh periwinkles can last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator when stored in a container covered by a damp cloth. Shelled periwinkles can be frozen for approximately 3 months.


Before periwinkles are washed, they should be shaken to make them retreat back into their shells.


Cook only live periwinkles whose shells are intact. Cook periwinkles in salted fresh water (1 tablespoon of salt per litre of water), seawater, or court bouillon. Place the periwinkles in a pot and cover them with liquid; then cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook the periwinkles for only 5 minutes (if they are cooked any longer, they become tough and are very difficult to remove from their increasingly fragile shells); then drain them. Extract them from their shells with a pin after removing the operculum.


Periwinkles can be eaten hot or cold. Their lean flesh is similar to that of snails, and they can be substituted for snails in most recipes. Although they are often marinated, they can be eaten plain, with a touch of lemon or vinegar. Prepared in various ways, they are cooked in white-wine sauces and used in salads and appetizers. They are particularly delicious when grilled over wood (be careful not to overcook them).

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