Other common names: Escargot; Burgundy Snail; Roman Snail; French Escargot Snail
Scientific name: Helix pomatia
The Edible Snail is a species of land snail that is native to much of Europe, excluding Portugal. It is a member of the mollusk family Helicidae and is closely related to the Garden Snail.
The Edible snail is distinguished from the Garden snail, as it is nearly twice as large, and typically has a grey body and a striped shell, with the stripes parallel to the shell axis. The Edible snail is commonly farmed for food and is known as escargot (the French for snail) when cooked as food. It is typically found in open areas, particularly along the banks of rivers where the soil is calcium rich. It needs loose soil both to bury its eggs and to burrow so that it can hibernate over winter.
It was introduced to Britain by the Romans and is now isolated to Southeast England where it is a protected species. Edible snails are exclusively herbivorous and will eat a whole range of plant matter from tree leaves to small flowering plants.
When snails are active the heat and tail emerges from the shell and the head extends four protruberances (tentacles). The upper two are longer and have eye-like photosensors at their tips. The lower two tentacles which perform tactile and olfactory sensory duties. The mouth is located below the tentacles and this contains a chitin-based structure known as a radula that is used to manipulate food into the mouth.
Like many terrestrial pulmoate gastropods snails are hermaphroditic and though they prefer to reproduce sexually, exchanging sperm by means of 'love darts' they can self-fertilize, so keeping them singly will not prevent the production of eggs. About two weeks after mating snails will lay up to 80 eggs in burrows that they dig into the soft topsoil of their environment (snails cannot breed in compacted soil). The eggs typically take between two and three weeks to
Appearance / health:
The Edible Snail has the classic snail form of a soft body and a spiral-shaped shell. The predominant shell colour is pale, ranging from creamy white to pale brown. Often there are indistinct bands of a slightly darker brown running perpendicular to the axis of the shell. In mature animals the shell has five to six whorls. The aperture is large (especially when compared to the garden snail), has a white margin and is slightly reflected in adults. The shell is 'calcareous' (ie based on calcium) and is typically about 35 to 50mm in width and some 30 to 45mm in height. The body is soft and about three times the length of the shell and is usually light grey in colour.
Behavior / temperament:
Snails are quite slow, very calm and can readily be handle. They pose no threat to humans and make an ideal starter pet for even young children. It can be truly fascinating, watching them interact with one another. However, because of their longevity (they can live up to 15 years) they are not a pet for the short-term. Bear this in mind if you are gifting them as a pet to a small child.
Oddly enough, snail farming is very much like the farming of other herbivores, just on a much smaller scale. You need an alkaline soil with sufficient quantity of calcium carbonate in it (without this, snails cannot build shells). On this are planted feed crops for the snails (typically clover, mangold, kale, chicory, turnip rape, spinach beet, wild cabbage or other cruciferous greens). The area is then fenced with a metal wall dug deeply into the soil around the farm. This keeps out small mammalian predators and keeps the snails in. Though netting to protect the snails from avian predators is desirable, this is not typically practical.
Edible snails are very healthy animals and very long lived. They require minimal maintenance, but they do need to have their shells cleaned occasionally to prevent fungal and bacterial build-up. Snails can also be prone to viral diseases and an outbreak can be devastating. Unfortunately, little is known about snail diseases, though there are some experiments being conduced in crossing edible European snails with their giant North African counterparts to provide new breeds with improved disease resistance and growth characteristics.
The Edible Snail will eat almost any leafy matter but are most happy feeding on clover or members of the cabbage (cruciferae) family of plants.
Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans
farmed snails, classic french snail, entertainment, Feeding snails, Kids, lower elementary children
Roman Snail, turkish snail, chalk calcium carbonate
Great for teaching
I owned these animals as a classroom pet when I taught science to lower elementary children. We kept them in a very large tank (about 5 feet high), filled with living plants, dirt, and a small dish of water. Feeding snails are easy, a few fresh vegetables kept them happy, and after a few days, I just switched the old leftovers with fresh stuff. The plants gave the snails plenty of places to hide, which sometimes made it hard for the kids to see them, but they slept on the walls often enough for it not to be a problem.
Snails don't bite (they don't have teeth, only a hard tongue), and they will crawl on clean hands (salty hands make them unhappy). If you keep them happy in a tank, they'll breed and keep your tank going for as long as you'd like. You can also always find more snails outside during a big rain.
They make great pets for kids who don't want something that needs attention or constant energy to keep happy. Just make sure they're home is warm, and you keep them stocked with food. I highly recommend these to teachers--the kids LOVED watching them and being responsible for their food changing..
From nerdylibrarian May 4 2013 12:58PM
Edible Snails as Escargot
This is the classic French snail that is cooked to give us escargot. It's about twice the size of the common garden snail. The Edible Snail is also commonly called the Roman Snail (the Romans had a fondness for eating them and they spread this snail throughout their empire).
In France, it has been a long-held belief that this snail cannot be easily farmed (they need damp conditions near rivers and streams and a chalky soil) and they are still typically harvested from the wild. But heliculture for this snail has been developed in Germany, Austria and England.
In many ways, farming snails is just like farming any other herbivore, just on a smaller scale.
Snails are herbivores and need plenty of vegetable matter. You need to start with an alkaline soil which has plenty of chalk (calcium carbonate) in it (the snails use this to form their shells). This is planted with crops for the snails to eat (clover, mangold, kale, chicory, turnip, rape, spinach, beet, wild cabbage etc). Once the crops have grown they are divided into plots with metal barriers that are dug deeply into the ground.
The edible snails are introduced as baby snails often harvested from the wild. Because the snails need plenty of moisture and a humid microclimate the pens are often sprayed with water once a day. The snails are allowed to graze until the area has been cleared. The snails are then removed to another enclosure and the grazed areas are ploughed and re-planted. The snails are typically harvested either in late spring (just after they have laid their eggs), or just after they have hibernated for winter (when they are heaviest). The snails are then typically washed, boiled to cook and then pickled or canned ready for sale.
These days, though, it is more common for farmed snails to be Turkish snails, or crosses between Turkish snails and Edible snails or even common garden snails because it is much easier to get them to reproduce in captivity.
Edible snails can be kept as pets, but they are much more finicky than their garden snail counterparts (the main problem is in giving them enough useable calcium in their diet). I would recommend these for people who have experience with snails only. The Turkish snail is better for an amateur, is prettier and is about the same size and characteristics as the Edible snail. If you are keeping Edible snails as pets then they need plenty of humidity and warmth. A plastic tank is best as this keeps the humidity in. I have found that placing woodlice in the enclosure helps keep it clean and they give an early indication if humidity levels are not right. You will still need to clean your enclosure frequently, ensure you have plenty of shade and hidey-holes (stacked bark is good). Edible snails do not often reproduce in captivity (which is why farming them sustainably is hard) and it can take a lot of trial and error to get the conditions 'just right' for them. Also, as they like humid conditions shell infections and fungal blooms are a real problem. You will need to wash your snails' shells regularly with clean water and an used toothbrush.
Just remember that, though snails make a great pet, especially for younger children, they are very long-lived..
From DLlE Sep 20 2012 9:45AM