Buccinum spp.


From the Old English weoloc.

The whelk is an attractive pale-brown mollusc found on sandy or muddy shores during low tide. It can reach 10 cm (4”) in size, though it is usually fished when about 7 cm (3”). Its shell ranges from chalky white to yellowish white, or even pale brown or green, depending on the river bed on which it grows. Whelks are distinctly spiral-shaped, forming six to eight turns. The interior is white or yellow and the shell opening may be hidden behind a closable disk called an operculum that is attached to the foot. The edible part is the muscle, namely the foot that the whelk uses to move around, which is creamy white, speckled with black.

Nutritional value per 100 g
Calories: 89; protein: 18.1 g; carbohydrates: 0 g; fat: 1.9 g


  • Fresh: light pleasant scent; stomach entirely removed.
  • Frozen: shiny meat with no signs of dehydration, crystallization or freezer burn.

Live whelks should be emptied of their excess liquid, wrapped in a damp cloth and eaten within 24 hours. 
To freeze whelks, immediately after buying them empty out the excess liquid and place into airtight packages. Consume within a month for optimal freshness. 

Because of their large opening and short canal, it’s easy to extract the meat from the shell. If you’ve collected the whelks yourself, remove the digestive gland and keep only the muscle to be safe. The gland contains toxins, a property peculiar to whelks.

Whelks need to be cooked for only a very short time, otherwise they toughen. They love spices and escargot butter. They’re often available in jars in a vinegary brine.

Basic cooking: place the whelks in a saucepan and add water to cover them by 1 cm (1/2”). Add a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook at a bare simmer.

Since the whelk has a wide orifice and a short duct, it is easy to extract the mollusk from the shell.

The English and Italians are the most avid consumers of whelks.

Whelks require only a very short cooking time, otherwise the flesh has a tendency to toughen. They can often be obtained in jars, packed in vinegar and water.

Live: fresh pleasant smell, light clear mucus.



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