Homegrown Gourmet: Garden Snails

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

If you are a farmer or gardener, you have likely encountered snails, and they can sometimes be a problem. Snail infestations often need to be controlled in one way or another, often meaning said snails will die, perhaps from some Sluggo or simply removing them by hand. But, if you have to deal with a snail problem anyway, why waste such a tasty food product? You may recognize escargot as a delicacy, but you may not know that it can be made with your common garden snail. The only real difference is that snails used to make typical escargot have stronger shells, making them easier to process. If, however, you’re interested in using your own snails as food, the method below is tried and true. Just note that you may also not want to use garden snails if you think there is a risk of them having encountered pesticides, for example those used in a neighbors yard.

HOW TO COLLECT & PREPARE GARDEN SNAILS

First gather your garden snails. It would be good if you identify your snails and make sure they are safe to eat before cooking. Any non-poisonous snail should theoretically be fine, but garden snails are preferable.

Starve snails in a clean container or series of containers for two days. Provide constant water, but no food. This will allow the snails to clean out their systems. Depending on how many you stuff into one container, containers may need to be cleaned once or twice to ensure sanitary conditions. Do not use chemical cleaners. Soap is fine so long as the containers are properly rinsed and no residue is left over. Make sure most of the container is dry to keep sanitary, preferably with a water tray or two.

Now you are ready to prepare your snails. Put snails in a container of room-temperature water so that they come out of their shells.

Heat a pot of water until it is at full boil (this will ensure snails die instantly and as humanely as possible). You may need to boil several batches to ensure snails hit full boiling water, as adding snails will likely make the water cool down drastically. Boil for three minutes, then remove snails and place on a plate.

Wait for snails to cool before shelling. It is best to have a container nearby to put empty shells. Using a fork gently poke snails and remove from shells. If boiled properly, snails should come out smoothly.

Nest, you will need to clean your snails of remaining mucus. Put snails in relatively light vinegar-water solution for thirty minutes.  After this, put in normal water for another thirty minutes to dissipate vinegar.

Congratulations, your snails are finally ready to freeze/cook. You may want to take a nap.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

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