Snails: From Farm to Kitchen and from Garden to Kitchen
I got interested in this topic after reading about the taste for snails that Italian immigrants to New York City in the 1800s brought with them in 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families. I had known that escargots featured in classic French cuisine but I hadn’t gotten much further than that. I was curious, though.
Curious again, I looked into religious dietary restrictions. Snails, as a mollusk aren’t Kosher — so as well as being out for Jews, they wouldn’t be allowed for Christian groups that follow Jewish eating laws either. Snails are haram for Shia Muslims and for strict Hanafis but are permissible for most Muslims. It actually seems to have been a controversial subject amongst Muslims.
A little Googling showed quite a few snail farmers in the UK, like H & RH Escargots in Canterbury, Kent. Their welcome page says “We are a mother and daughter business farming edible snails: Helix aspersa maxima, since 2006, supplying you with delicious snails through local restaurants, gastropubs, farm shops and farmers’ markets.”
I found an interesting video from a segment of Brit chef, Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word in which he tours a UK snail farm, samples snails in garlic butter from the farmhouse kitchen and then after finding out that the farmed snails are literally garden variety has his kids hunt down about a dozen in his backyard and walks us through a new way to prepare them.
**In the video, he mentions the steps that you need to take if you intend to eat snails from your garden, as you need to ensure that any toxins they may have eaten clear their systems.
Note: Since this is Gordon Ramsay and the clip is taken from British TV where swears are allowed, he swears once during the clip.
I noticed that the UK snail farmer had mentioned that his farm operation was very labor and water intensive. This didn’t sound very sustainable to me.
Then I found this video about “free range” snail farming in Australia. Looks like they’ve planted a crop for the snails.
Here is a detailed look at Stephane and Nathalie’s snail farm in France. It seems like they are the only workers on their farm and so they clock really high hours between caring for the snails and processing them.