Barnacles were available and consumed year round [1-4]. To some cultures such as the Coast Salish and Queen Charlotte Strait people (Kwakwaka'wakw), they were a staple food, but to others they were eaten only when other food supplies were scarce [1, 5-7]. For Manhousat, barnacles were most likely to be consumed by elders .
Barnacles were mostly collected in spring and summer from rocks. The Manhousat only gathered barnacles where they had been previously harvested because it was believed that repeated harvesting encouraged growth. Barnacles were collected in spring, but they were considered best during summer months when they were bigger (apart from gooseneck barnacles, which were considered best during winter months). Barnacles could be taken only in the summer months if there was no “poison” in the water . Kwakiutl collected barnacles attached to rocks in special places and at special times of year .
Women were most responsible for harvesting barnacles, which were gathered twice a day at low spring tides [1, 9, 10]. When gathering, the women wore a tightly woven cedar bark back protector and packed an openwork basket with tumpline while the men carried a woven cedar bark sack . To pick a barnacle from a rock, a prying stick or heavy knife was pressed to its base and given a sharp blow with the base of the palm [3, 11]. The prying stick used by the Manhousat was one and a half feet long, tongue-shaped, and adzed as thin as possible .
Barnacles were consumed raw, steamed or roasted. The Kyuquot enjoyed chewing the raw ends [3, 12]. The Manhousat reportedly did not like raw barnacles due to the strong, salty flavor. The most popular method of preparation was steaming in a pit or, in more recent times, a pot. To steam in a pit a fire was made in a pit with rocks added to become hot; when the fire burned down the barnacles were placed on the hot rocks while a small quantity of water was poured into the pit, which was then covered with a red cedar bark mat [11, 13]. This way the barnacles cooked quickly and a small stick could then be pushed through the mouth to remove the edible insides. Alternatively, barnacles were roasted over alderwood coals, imparting a smoky flavour. After cooking, the leathery skin that covers the stalk was torn free of the capitulum with the fingers. The edible insides, still attached to the capitulum, were then bitten off and eaten .
The Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island are reported to have collected acorn barnacles in spring . The thatched barnacle is reported to have been one of the most common acorn barnacle consumed by Manhousat elders . Another species of acorn barnacle, Balanus glandula, had mythological meaning to the Tl’uhus to explain the reason for the sharpness of the barnacle. Bouchard and Kennedy capture an interpretation from a Tl’uhus community member: “Mink married Barnacle, but due to her “sharp” qualities, they were not compatible and had to separate. Because Barnacle protected herself from Mink by bringing out the “sharp” features of her face, it is now possible to cut your feet on barnacles while walking along the beach” .
Ivory barnacle shells were found at Wampanoag kitchen heaps; however they were known to latch on to mollusk shells and may have appeared coincidentally in the middens .
The Nootka of Vancouver Island are reported to have collected gooseneck barnacles in spring . They are reported to have been one of the most common barnacles consumed by Manhousat elders; these barnacles were considered best when collected during winter months .
Wampanoag prepared rock barnacles in a stew, especially if they were filled with eggs .
1. Batdorf C: Northwest Native Harvest. Surrey, B.C: Hancock House Publishers Ltd.; 1990.
2. Blackman MB: Haida: Traditional Culture. In: The Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute; 1990: 240-245.
3. Ellis DW, Swan L: Teachings of The Tides: Uses of Marine Invertebrates By The Manhousat People, vol. 1st edition. Nanaimo, B.C.: Theytus Books Ltd.; 1981.
4. Kirk R: Daily Life. In: Wisdom of the Elders: Native Traditions on the Northwest Coast- The Nuu-chah-nulth, Southern Kwakiutl and Nuxalk. edn. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre in association with The British Columbia Provincial Museum; 1986: 105-138.
5. Bouchard R, Kennedy DID: Utilization of fishes, beach foods, and marine mammals by the Tl'uhus Indian People of British Columbia. In.: British Columbia Indian Language Project; 1974.
6. Mitchell D: Prehistory of the Coasts of Southern British Columbia and Northern Washington. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 340-358.
7. Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of marine life by the Wampanoag Indians of Massachusetts. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1948, 38(8):257-265.
8. Codere H: Kwakiutl: Traditional Culture. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 259-365.
9. Arima E, Dewhirst J: Nootkans of Vancouver Island. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 391-397.
10. Suttles W, Lane B: Southern Coast Salish. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 485-490.
11. Arima EY: The West Coast People: The Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, vol. Special Publication No. 6. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Musem; 1983.
12. Kenyon SM: The Kyuquot Way: A Study of a West Coast (Nootkan) Community, vol. Paper No. 61 (Canadian Ethnology Service). Ottawa: National Museums of Canada; 1980.
13. Suttles WP: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians. In: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians The Economic Life of the Coast Salish of Haro and Rosario Straits. edn. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc.; 1974.
Barnacles are a type of sedentary crustaceans, including around 1,000 species worldwide. In North America, barnacles include one species of stalked barnacle along the Pacific coast, the gooseneck barnacle (Pollicipes polymerus), and four species of cemented acorn barnacles, two along the Pacific coast, the thatched barnacle (Semibalanus cariosus) and Balanus glandula, and two along the Atlantic coast, the rock barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides) and the ivory barnacle (Balanus eburneus). Barnacles are called cirripèdes in French.
Barnacles are very distinct from other crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, and shrimps. They secrete a calcareous shell resembling that of bivalve mollusks, like clams, cockles, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Their head is reduced, their abdomen is absent, and their six pairs of legs are long and curved, often protruding outside the shell to filter-feed or trap animal preys. Barnacles are permanently attached to the substrate, either hanging down by a stalk, often from floating logs, in stalked barnacles or cementing their shell directly onto the substrate in cemented acorn barnacles.
Barnacles tend to be found in shallow and tidal waters, but they can colonize in great numbers almost any substrate, from living animals, like crabs or whales, to artificial objects, like boat bottoms. They are hermaphrodites and usually reproduce by cross-fertilization between neighbours. Fertilized eggs are stored within the shell until larvae are released and go through series of free-swimming larval stages before settling into a sessile juvenile barnacle. Barnacles, like other filter-feeders, can accumulate bacterial or viral agents, pollutants, or biotoxin that can be harmful to humans.
Rainbow PS: "Other Crustaceans". In: The Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Edited by Dawes ACJ: Oxford University Press; 2007.