Turkish Snail

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Other common names: Escargot Turc

Scientific name: Helix lucorum

The basics:
The Turkish snail is a species of edible terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk (ie an air-breathing land snail) that is native to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and Asia Minor. It has been introduced to France and Italy for snail farming.

This snail is extensively farmed for escargot, the main producer being Turkey. It is of similar size and taste characteristics to the Edible Snail (Helix pomatia), but is easier to farm and can be raised in larger numbers.

The Turkish snail has a pale body and a striped shell, with the stripes being bands of white or cream alternated with darker bands that range from fawn to black. The stripes run with the spiral pattern of the shell. This makes the shells very pretty and they are often collected by children. Like other edible snails, the Turkish snail is 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 50 eggs, each up to 4.5mm in diameter, 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 hatch and the baby snails reach adulthood in 2 years.

Their natural envi

Appearance / health:
Like other edible snails, the Turkish Snail has the classic snail form of a soft body and a spiral-shaped shell. The shell is striped in a banded pattern that follows the spiral of the shell. Stripes alternate between light and dark bands. The light bands range from white to cream and the dark bands range from fawn to black in colour. In mature animals the shell has five to six whorls. The shell is 'calcareous' (ie based on calcium) and is typically about 40 to 55mm in width and some 40 to 50mm in height. The body is soft and about three times the length of the shell and is usually pale 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. The Turkish snail is particularly admired because of its colourful shell.

If farming your snails then, 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.

Excessive plant growth needs to be cleared, leaving only the desirable food plants and this has to be one by hand to prevent the introduction of herbicides. If should also be noted that snail populations are self-limiting, you will never get a density of snails above 40 snails per square metre (this is because a snail's slime contains a chemical that limits fertility as snails cross each others' slime trails they pick this chemical up).

This means that you need several enclosures to keep your snails in as this allows for a progression of harvesting. Unless the microclimate of your snail farm is quite moist and humid the farm it may be required to irrigate with sprinklers once a day (typically around noon) to ensure sufficient humidity for the snails to thrive. This is another reason that nets are not used for snail enclosures as these would trap fog and dew, reducing humidity. Instead, natural avian predators are encouraged with perches and nesting boxes.

The plants chosen are also important as they should provide both food for the snails and also shelter for them. When everything is ready, young snails are introduced and they are allowed to 'get on with it'. However, now and then the snails must be provided with 'limp' (ie

Turkish snails will eat almost any leafy matter, but in cultivation have a preference for members of the cabbage (cruciferae) family of plants. Snails need to be farmed on alkaline soil with a high concentration of chalk as they need this chalk for healthy shell growth.

In captivity, Turkish snails will eat almost any leafy matter and they will be happy on a diet of lettuce and cabbage. However, like all snails, they do require a source of calcium. This could be natural chalk or ground shellfish shells and cuttlefish shells. If feeding your snails a varied diet it is a good idea to place the different foodstuffs in plastic bottle tops as this makes adding to and removing from the tank very easy.

Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans


large size, edible snail, beautiful shells, farmed


diet natural chalk, leafy material cabbage, Ottoman empire

Turkish Snail Health Tip

Turkish Snail

From DLlE Oct 12 2012 6:24AM


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