Other Names: wilks
Identification & Biololgy: A Whelk is a large marine gastropod (snail). Whelks are sometimes confused with conches. While both are gastropods they differ in shell morphology with whelks having smaller more slender shells while conch typically have a broader shell with more exaggerated knobs, Also conches tend to be more tropical vegetarians while whelks are carnivorous and temperate.
Whelk shells are generally light grey to tan, often having brown and white streaks. The shells have a long siphonal canal, and most species coil dextrally (right-handed, or in a clockwise direction).
Range & Habitat: Temperate waters worldwide
Market Description: The edible part is the muscle, namely the foot that the whelk uses to move around, which is creamy white, speckled with black. 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.
Recommended Preparation: Since the whelk has a wide orifice and a short duct, it is easy to extract the mollusk 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.