Wild-Caught Escargot

***Warning – Some pictures and descriptions may be a bit graphic***

Over the last few weeks, I have successfully collected, prepared, and eaten my own escargots. Here in Southern California, we have an invasive snail known as the Milk Snail, genus Otala, imported from the Mediterranean. Since the climate here is very similar to Spain and North Africa, they took off and have been doing massive damage to agriculture. They are also one of the species used for human consumption.

1-Wild

During the dry parts of the year, milk snails are very easy to find and collect. They estivate, meaning that they go dormant during warm, dry periods, and become active when the winter rains come. To conserve moisture, they seal their shell to a plant, using several layers of dried slime. Once they become moist, they wake up in as little as 15 minutes.

The easiest place to find milk snails is on dried Anise stalks. Anise is a close relative of fennel, and is one of the snails’ favorite foods.

3-Bag of Snails

I collected a large number of snails in about half an hour. Because they are invasive, they form extremely dense populations in areas that are suitable for them.

4-Container

As far as I am aware, there are no inherently toxic land snails. However, the same cannot be said of the food that they eat. If the snails have toxic plants in their gut, they can be dangerous to eat. To clear out their gut, I fed them on lettuce for about a week. I have also heard of people using flour, or other cereal products. Not only does this clear out whatever they ate in the wild, but it also allows them to bulk up a bit after a season of dormancy. If you come across any dead snails, pull them out and discard them. If the container gets gross, just remove the snails and wipe it down with a paper towel.

23-Container Top View

After a week of lettuce, I withheld food for a day or two to make sure their gut was empty before I cooked them. Don’t withhold water, though.

6-Fed and Starved

I have heard of people feeding their snails on grape leaves and wine, instead of lettuce and water. Spoil your snails. Not only is it more humane to treat them well, but common agricultural wisdom has long said that the happiest animals make for the best food. Here’s a picture of a happy, healthy milk snail.

5-Happy Snail

One of the main reasons people get squeamish at the idea of eating snails is the slime. However, escargot go through a process known as “desliming” which serves multiple functions. Obviously, it removes all of the slime from the snails. It also causes them to expel any waste that they might still have in their gut. Lastly, it kills the snails before cooking.

7-Desliming

Put your snails in a container with a lid. In a separate bowl, dissolve two tablespoons of salt into enough water to cover the snails. Pour this salt solution into the container that holds the snails.

8-Desliming

They will immediately release slime into the water, emptying their glands. If you are the sensitive type, cover the container and walk away for a while. I watched, and it is somewhat interesting to observe the immense rate at which these animals can secrete mucus. You will want to leave them in the salt solution for about four hours to make sure all the slime is gone.

9-Desliming

Here, you can see how much slime actually comes out of the snails.

10-Desliming

The container will be pretty gross after four hours. Rinse the snails to remove all of this waste. You will end up with a nice bowl of clean milk snails ready to cook.

11-Rinsed

So this post is getting a bit long. thus far, we have covered all of the prep work that needs to be done, so I’ll write the cooking steps in a second post tomorrow afternoon.

~The Homesteading Hippy.

2 thoughts on “Wild-Caught Escargot

  1. Pingback: Octopus on the Grill | The Homesteading Hippy

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