Cooking Garden Snails

Don’t look at me like that. If you saw this seasonal dish in a restaurant marked up as “Escargot” you’d probably be tempted. So why not try them for free at home?

Cooking Snails

The benefits are surely two fold. One one hand, you get a delicious meal that most French men would applaud. On the other, you go some way towards protecting your valuable garden veg, which is otherwise being eaten by the little critters.

First you need to find some of them. Nearly all species are edible (ha, doesn’t that fill you with confidence!), but in reality you’ll probably only find 2 species in English gardens. First is the common yellow and brown stripy helix aspersa, and the second is the rarer brown helix pomatia (“roman” snail) . Due to the rarity of the (larger) pomatia, it is recommended to eat only the aspersa, and the best time to collect them is between April and October.

Before you cook them, you’ll need to purge your snails to remove any grit inside them. A simple technique is to put them in the bottom of a bucket, covered with a breathable material – such as a pair of tights. Feed them with oats and a shallow saucer of water (both changed daily) for 5 days.

Not So Traditional Garlic ‘Escargot’ Recipe

  1. Place alive snails (never dead ones!) in a pot of gently boiling salted water for 15 minutes, removing any scum that rises to the surface.
  2. Remove snails from shells using a toothpick or similar instrument.
  3. Heat 100g / 3.5 oz butter in a pan with 2 chopped up cloves of garlic and a roughly chopped handful of parsley.
  4. Chop snails roughly (they’re less chewy this way!) and add to the pan.
  5. Fry for around 5 minutes until lightly browned.
  6. Meanwhile…prepare a couple of slices of white toast.
  7. Pour garlicky snails over the toast.

Now – are you enjoying it? If so, you might want to further explore this avenue of free food, or even experiment with breeding your own (and feeding them herbs for new flavours). If so, check out this herticulture website. You can also find a great recipe (and blog) here.

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