Edible Snail

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Other common names: Escargot; Burgundy Snail; Roman Snail; French Escargot Snail

Scientific name: Helix pomatia

The basics:
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


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Edible Snail Health Tip

Edible Snail

From DLlE Sep 20 2012 9:45AM


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