Eating Garden Snails
A tremendous pest and one that has tormented gardeners for generations. I have experimented with many methods to control or in some cases eradicate these pesky critters, but whatever I try they still feast on my produce before I do. It is infuriating, but being angry at snails does not seem to work. So instead I have turned the problem on it’s head and embraced the garden snail with open arms and an empty stomach. From now on if I catch a snail eating my lettuce, I eat the snail. Simple, sustainable, effective and delicious!
You might find this concept hard to swallow (excuse the pun) but allow me to explain why this is such a good idea. There are many ways to protect your plants from snails, which range from extremely environmentally unfriendly to slightly environmentally friendlier. The trouble is, the more sustainable the method, the less effective it seems to be.
Slug Pellets are Toxic
It pains me to say it, but I have always considered slug pellets to be the only truly effective form of defense against snails. However, the thought of sprinkling poison all over my delicious organic soil is a little hard to come to terms with. Many gardeners consider beer traps a safe option, but the brewing industry has a substantial impact on the environment and is it humane to drown a snail in alcohol?
Predator as Snail Control?
One of the best ways to control a pest is to introduce a predator and humans are one of the most formidable predators on the planet. Hunting snails keeps their numbers low and less snails means less damage to your plants. It is never a particularly nice experience when you kill something, but killing snails feels a lot less cruel if you know you are going to cook them afterwards. Furthermore, snails are rich in protein and can be considered good quality, free range, local and organic meat. Why would you not want to eat them and enjoy all that your garden can offer? You might also take pleasure in seeking revenge for all of the plants that have been devoured by the critters!
How to start your snail farm
Before you eat any garden snails, you have to make sure they are safe to eat. Primarily this means using no more slug pellets or pesticides in your garden which is no bad thing. If your neighbours use pesticides, be aware that although snails move slowly, they can travel great distances.
The snails will need to be cleansed for 7 to 10 days before they are eaten to flush anything bad through their systems. You will need some sort of tank or aquarium to keep the snails in. The tank needs to be kept moist and have air holes. When you find a snail, mark its shell with the date and add it to the farm. There are many species of edible snail, but I would advise you to stick with the common brown garden snail. You should give your snails fresh grated carrot and water every day. You can also feed them fresh herbs for extra flavour. The tank and the snails will need to be cleaned daily if possible or at least a few times a week. Any snails that die should be removed immediately. If you have a spray gun, you can mist the farm regularly too. Snails like moisture but too much standing water can be harmful to them so make sure you don’t drown them. When you have enough snails for a meal and they have all been in the farm for at least 7 days they need to fast for 1 or 2 days. Then you can cook them.
How to cook your snails
Never cook a dead snail. It is sometimes hard to tell if they are alive or not. If in doubt, poke the snail with something sharp and look for a reaction. Make sure you give the snails a good clean under running water before cooking.
• Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the snails for 3 minutes. This is the most humane way to kill them. There is no need to salt the snails before boiling.
• Drain the water, and rinse the snails in cold water.
• Remove the snails from their shells with a small fork or knife. Keep the shells.
• Add a splash of vinegar to a bowl of water and thoroughly wash the snails to remove any mucous. You may need to repeat this step 2 or 3 times.
• Roughly chop an onion and a carrot. Add to a pan of boiling water with a bay leaf and your shelled snails. Simmer for about 1 hour.
• Meanwhile, boil the empty shells in a pan of water for several minute, then rinse and dry.
• Make a herby, garlic butter using a selection of herbs of your choice. Dill and sage are good.
• When the snails have been simmering for 1 hour, remove from the heat and drain.
• Place a small amount of the butter in each shell, followed by the cooked snail, followed by some more
• Bake in the oven until the butter is sizzling.
[ CC Image by doug88888 via Flickr]