Snails as food

Land snails are part of the European and Asian cuisine. It is no secret that many people find snails to be delicious as an appetizer or as a main course. There are plenty of popular recipes out there for cooking them, and many people prepare them at home. Such dishes are typical in many elite restaurants as well.

In France, snails are common and referred with the French word “Escargot.” When cooked, snails are prepared with garlic and parsley butter, added for seasoning, and served in their shell. They are very expensive because they are considered a delicacy.

Escargot is the common name for snails when prepared in a meal. Millions of snails are consumed around the world annually. In fact, there is even a day to celebrate it! May 24th is the National Escargot Day.

Humans have consumed Land snails for thousands of years. They are low in fat, high in water and proteins and are part of several dishes. Its consumption is not very common in areas of America, but in Europe and Asia, these kind of meals are considered delicacies. Since prehistoric times, man all over the world consumed different kinds of animals for survival, and that sometimes included snails.

In several parts of the ancient world including the Roman Empire, snails were part of their cuisine. In fact, they even farmed snails so there would be a huge supply to meet the demand.

According to the Roman historian Pliny, the Elder, heliciculture was practiced on the estate of a man, called Fluvius Hirpinus, situated in an area of what is now Italy, in 50 AD. However, humans ate snails since prehistoric times, according to discoveries of supposedly roasted shells. The Romans had a significant history of eating snails. According to Pliny, the Elder, Fluvius Hirpinus fed his snails with wine and meat, which gives an idea of how important they were in Roman cuisine. That practice to consume them did not stop then.

Heliciculture

Heliciculture commonly known as snail farming, is the process of raising edible land snails, primarily for human consumption or cosmetic use. Snails still are a huge industry for the restaurant business. 

The global consumption is around 450.000 tons per year, of which only 15% comes from snail breeding units, while the remaining 85% comes from snails collected from nature.

There are few types of snail farms:

  1. Open air farms
  2. Garden farms
  3. Indoor farms

Some who raise H. aspersa separate the five stages: 

  1. Reproduction
  2. Hatching
  3. Young
  4. Fattening and final fattening
  5. Harvest and purging.

Depending on the scale and sophistication of a snail farm, it will contain some or all of stages which may or may not be merged with one and another. Each stage has its particular values for the key factors to successful snail farming, described above. The fastest, largest, and healthy snails are selected for next generation breeders. This is typically around 5% of the harvest. The remainder goes for sales.Snail eggs may also harvested and processed to produce snail caviar, but in order to do so systematically, special breeding units are created enhancing easy harvest of the eggs.

Although the consumption of land snails is present in the gastronomy and it is part of the culture of some regions, it is a worrying fact that these animals sometimes carry several parasites, mainly nematodes. If they are not cleaned or cooked properly, the parasites are capable of affecting the human body and producing fatal conditions. The most common type of snail used for eating is the garden species. However, if you have a garden with snails, do not try to catch them and prepare yourself, wild snails can carry a parasite that can cause meningitis among other diseases.

Population density also affects successful snail production. Pens should contain no more than six to eight fair-sized snails per square foot which is equal to one kilogram per square meter. The preparation of anyone involves fasting the snails for a few days to be purged, to eliminate their viscera, to cook them and many times, to place them back in the shells to serve.

Not all land snails are edible. In France and majority of other countries, the Roman snailor or Burgundy snail (Helix pomatia), the garden snail (Helix aspersa) and, to a lesser extent, the European snail (Helix lucorum) are the only species eaten. Helix aspersa is called “Le Petit Gris”. Other edible species are Cepaea nemoralis, Cepaea hortensis, Achatina fulica, Helix aperta and Otala punctata.

Helix pomatia
Helix aspersa
Helix lucorum
Cepaea nemoralis
Cepaea hortensis
Otala punctata

Snail meat is one of most healthier sources of animal protein which we call meat. They are low in fat, high in water and proteins, rich in minerals & vitamins and are part of several dishes. Its consumption is not very common in areas of America, but in Europe and Asia, these kind of meals are considered delicacies.

Chefs prepare them with butter, garlic and some types of herbs such as dill and parsley and are served in their shell on a specific dish to prevent them from sliding out and falling. The meat has a slightly hard texture. Also, some eat snail eggs as caviar.

The dishes made with land snails are exclusive in many areas of France, Great Britain, Italy and some other countries, where they have high prices and are part of unique recipes. Offering them is getting a standard for special receptions and other fancy affairs.

In Greece and Italy snail are often consumed in a variety of meals, and sometimes they are used in sauces and poured over various types of pasta. People from other countries like China, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Germany also consume them. In the US there is a huge market for Escargots usually imported from many countries. Many of the recipes found in some restaurants are similar from those found in the European restaurants.

Humans have consumed Land snails for thousands of years. Since prehistoric times, man all over the world consumed different kinds of animals for survival, and that sometimes included snails.

In several parts of the ancient world including the Roman Empire, snails were part of their cuisine. In fact, they even farmed snails so there would be a huge supply to meet the demand.

According to the Roman historian Pliny, the Elder, heliciculture was practiced on the estate of a man, called Fluvius Hirpinus, situated in an area of what is now Italy, in 50 AD. However, humans ate snails since prehistoric times, according to discoveries of supposedly roasted shells. The Romans had a significant history of eating snails. According to Pliny, the Elder, Fluvius Hirpinus fed his snails with wine and meat, which gives an idea of how important they were in Roman cuisine. That practice to consume them did not stop then. Snails still are a huge industry for the restaurant business. Nowadays, the dishes made with land snails are exclusive in many areas of France, Great Britain, and some other countries, where they have high prices and are part of unique recipes. Offering them is getting a standard for special receptions and other fancy affairs.

There is even an annual event dedicated to them. L’Aplec del Caragol is a gastronomic festival held for three days in Lérida, Spain, at the end of May. It is devoted to the land snail as food, especially the species Helix aspersa, garden snail, and attracts hundreds of visitors who enjoy other activities besides music and entertainment.

L’Aplec del Caragol is a celebration known all over Spain and part of Europe which has been declared Festivity of National Tourist Interest and National Celebration of Traditional Interest. The organization is composed of one hundred of groups of supporters enlivened by the musical groups with a lot of vitality and joy. You will enjoy an explosion of colour and music in which you will be able to admire the colourful costumes and the show of Banners.Twelve tons of these snails from the rest of Spain, the north of Africa and South America will be cooked to delight supporters and visitors. They offer you affordable prices in order for you to be able to taste this exquisite dish. In this hospitable and nice atmosphere you will be able to have fun by means of the open-air celebrations, concerts, the impressive castellers, dance exhibitions… Something really curious you are going to discover is the snail race! Which will be the winner this year?The result of all this mixture is a frenetic party where fun is assured.