Nature is rich in its inhabitants, and snails are no exception. The number of snail species is very large. In Australia alone, there are more than 3000 species. Snails were eaten even in ancient Rome and Greece. They were fed with flour, aromatic herbs and given wine, making the taste of the meat unique and delicate. Definitely, not all snails can be eaten as there are so many. Let’s find out what kind of snails you can eat.
What snails can you eat? Traditionally, in Europe and the USA, they eat land snails of the Helicidae family, including Helix Pomatia (grape snail), Helix Lucorum, and Helix Aspersa (garden snail). Cepaea Nemoralis, Cepaea Hortensis, Achatina Fulica snails can also be eaten, but they are not as popular as grape varieties.
Although there are many edible snails, grape and garden snails are considered the most delicious and are used in cooking.
Types Of Edible Snails
What kind of snails can you eat? In European countries, they mainly eat land snails of the Helicidae family, which has subspecies depending on the habitat:
- Helix Pomatia is a grape snail. Its homeland is Central and South-Eastern Europe. It is believed that its meat tastes better than other types of meat.
- Helix Lucorum is found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region, mainly consumed in Greece and Georgia.
- Helix Aspersa is better known as the garden snail. It is most common in many countries around the world but most often found in the Mediterranean region, Western and Eastern Europe. There are several subspecies of it: Helix Aspersa Muller and Helix Aspersa Maxima.
Grape and garden snails are grown on specialized farms in large quantities for sale, supply to restaurants and shops, and for the pharmaceutical industry. French gourmets eat grape snails, but garden snails have found their way too.
Helix Pomatia is one of the most common culinary varieties. Its meat is valued more than other snails. It reaches the size and weight necessary for eating in 2-3 years, its weight can reach 30-45 grams.
Helix Aspersa Maxima is also known as a large gray snail, differing from the grape snail in a shorter growing cycle. To achieve a size that meets commercial and consumer criteria, one season is enough for them, that is, a period of 5-7 months from spring to autumn. An adult of this species weighs 16 to 25 grams and is capable of laying 120-180 eggs.
Helix Aspersa Muller, also known as gray small, has the advantage of being used in cooking as a whole. Although it is small, its meat is very tasty and does not require special initial processing. Prepare it together with the shell without removing the intestines. Its weight reaches 6-10 grams and lays 80-120 eggs. The time it takes to reach its maturity is shorter than that of large relatives and is only 5-6 months.
A lesser known but also edible species is the Otala Lactea, milk or Spanish snail. It is not widely cultivated, but it is eaten by the Spanish, Portuguese, Greeks and other Mediterranean countries. It is harvested from the wild and considered an invasive agricultural pest. It is slightly smaller than Helix Aspersa, the pattern on the shell varies greatly, but overall it is beige with darker brown stripes.
Snail Nutritional Value
Are snails healthy to eat? Snail meat is not only tasty but also a healthy product — it contains a lot of vitamins, is rich in amino acids and proteins, but there is little fat in it. It is almost 80% water. 100 g of snail meat contains 15% proteins, 2.4% fats.
What Snails Do They Eat in France?
In France, they mostly eat Helix Pomatia, grown in Burgundy, to prepare an exquisite dish called Escargot de Bourgogne. The French are the largest consumers of snails in the world. They eat about 27 thousand tons or 700 million pieces every year, while their demand is satisfied by only 60-70%. Naturally, Burgundy alone is not enough to feed all gourmets, so Europe imports a gourmet product from other countries.
Escargot is an expensive dish. Most often, you can try it in an elite restaurant or at a banquet as a delicious snack for alcoholic beverages. But traditional recipes are not complicated at all, so the French cook escargot at home. The basic principle of all French snail recipes is that fillets are boiled, cut and mixed with oil, fresh herbs and spices. The finished filling is stuffed in shells. Instead of live snails, you can use frozen or canned ones. So you do not necessarily need to use live snails for cooking.
Precautions for Cooking Land Snails
At first glance, in everyday life, it is not difficult at all to collect garden snails in your own yard and enjoy a delicacy. But catching and trying to cook something from garden molluscs from your own garden is not worth it.
Can you eat garden slugs? You must never eat garden slugs. Forest and garden snails that live in their natural environment are often infected with certain types of parasites. These parasites, once in the human body, can cause various unpleasant diseases and even lead to meningitis.
Professional chefs, before starting to prepare dishes from live snails, perform a number of procedures with them. First, the snails go through a kind of quarantine — for three days, the mollusks are placed in an empty container without giving them food. Then they take it out and feed it with flour for a week and give them water to drink — this is necessary for the complete cleansing of the shellfish’s body. And only after that, the snails become edible.
What Do Snails Taste Like?
The taste of European snails reminds the taste of chicken and mushrooms, which is most intense in Burgundy and less pronounced in gastropods from the Balkans. The meat of Burgundy snails has a light brown hue. Balkan snails are much darker. The taste of African women-Achatina resembles russula mushrooms. Achatina shells, unlike Helix, are very fragile.
That said, there are several types of these snails that you can eat. These are Helix Pomatia (grape/Burgundy snails), Helix Lucorum (mountain/land snails), and, of course, the delicious Mediterranean Helix Aspersa Maxima and Helix Aspersa Muller.
Snails are symbols of France, where residents include shellfish on the menu more often than in other countries of the world. Every year the French eat about seven hundred million pieces.
In Italy and Greece, edible snails are used to make pasta sauces. Meat is added to salads and soups, as well as second hot dishes. For Germany, edible snails are also valuable. The same applies to Spain as well as Portugal. Snails are served at various bistros in America. Farmers in Germany and Poland, as well as Greece and Indonesia, successfully breed snails.