Viewing entries tagged
Roman snails

Comment

Roman snails reappear to enjoy the sun

baby Romans 08.04.15 In August last year our first baby Roman snails emerged from the soil in their pen at Littlebourne Allotments. I counted about 30 but they were so tiny and it was so late in the year I wondered if they would survive the winter. But yesterday I was delighted to see the warm weather had brought the little snails out to graze during the day and I counted 33. I gave them some water and dry food and they were soon tucking in.

Most of the other snails were collected up in October/ November and taken indoors either to hibernate or to carry on growing in a warm shed. But I left a few out just to see how they would get on outside. These were mullers (petit gris) and I reasoned they might be more hardy as they are smaller and more like our common garden snails. Well, some of them died but most have survived I think and they too were out snacking while the sun shone:

overwintered mullers 08.04.15When they are tiny like this the Helix aspersa mullers and the Helix pomatia (Roman snails) look very similar. But if you look at the foot you can see a difference in the shape: the foot of the Roman snail looks as though it has a skirt round the edge while the mullers don't have that. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed the weather doesn't suddenly turn very cold again and catch them out. Only a few more weeks before Slow Summer Snail Farm moves outside for another English summer.

Comment

1 Comment

Roman invasion 2014

They're here! Every day I've been searching the Roman snail pen for signs of the hatchlings that I thought I ought to see. I was beginning to lose hope, thinking the weather conditions or something else had perhaps not been quite right but they were just teasing me.
baby Romans

Yesterday these long anticipated baby Romans appeared like little brown grains of sand along the seams of the netting in each corner of the pen. I've read that they spend quite a long time underground after hatching so I suppose that's where they've been as I'm pretty sure the eggs were laid weeks ago. I wanted to let this colony live as naturally as possible within the confines of their pen but I did leave them a present of a slice of marrow and some chopped up french beans. The pen is full of fresh lovely spinach which the adults are not eating and to be honest I'm not sure what they are eating except when I leave them a few titbits of vegetables and a sprinkling of powdered snail food. Let's hope they survive and grow - I've got my fingers firmly crossed.

1 Comment

Comment

Taste of Britain

Watch out for the new series of Taste of Britain on BBC 1 in the autumn because we'll be in the Taste of Kent programme. Last week we were filming and fortunately the weather was kind. It was very good to meet Janet Street Porter and Brian Turner.  When Janet is not on Loose Women she's writing columns for the Independent and the Daily Mail. I introduced Janet and Brian to the molluscs and then Brian did some cooking. You'll have to wait for the recipe but I can tell you it was delicious. We caused a bit of a stir at Littlebourne Allotments but peace was restored by the end of the afternoon. Then we had a tremendous thounderstorm that triggered  some vigorous digging activity in the Roman snail pen.

Roman snail digging1

This one has just started making a pit but this one has almost buried himself completely:

Roman snail digging2

I'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that they were laying eggs! Now I'm just waiting to see if they hatch.

Comment

Comment

Flirting the Roman way

Image

Aongside the serious business of farming, I'm keeping a small pen of Roman snails. These six beauties spent the winter in my fridge and now the mating and laying season for Roman snails has started, things are seriously hotting up. You may not share my fascination with snails but you have to admit this is some interesting behaviour I've captured in this shot. I'm pretty sure there's some serious flirting going on here, not a boxing match. All I need now is some eggs please.

I will just reiterate for the benefit of those who don't know, that Roman snails: Helix pomatia, are protected in Britain under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and must not be disturbed. My lovely specimens were imported from a reputable source in Italy and not collected from the wild. If you see Helix pomatia offered for sale you need to satisfy yourself that they are from a reputable source. In many other European countries where they occur they are semi-protected so that, for example, you can't collect during the laying season and mustn't take snails of a certain size so that the population is sustained.

Comment

Comment

Roman snails @Lullingstone

Tom Hart Dyke was on Radio 4 the other morning talking about his kidnap experience in Colombia some years ago. I was reminded of the day he invited me to go to Lullingstone Castle to see his Roman snails. Now there was an offer not to be refused!

my Roman snail

This picture is one of the farmed Roman snails I bought from Italy last year. I've kept half a dozen hoping they might breed but I'm not hopeful as they are so fussy about where they like to live. But I digress. At Lullingstone, Tom and I rummaged about in the undergrowth along the paths until we found some empty shells and eventually one real live Roman snail - it wasn't at all pleased to see us. We were very careful not to disturb it as they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act but it certainly knew we were there and retreated into its shell to wait until it was safe to come out. While we sat in the potting shed drinking coffee, Tom talked about seeing the snails every day on the path when he was walking to the station each morning to go to school. Locals could remember seeing them often in the past and we know they've been in Britain certainly since the Romans brought them to eat. There's a Roman villa at Lullingstone of course so that would fit the story.  The differences between Helix pomatia (Roman snails)  and Helix aspersa (our common garden snails and escargots) are quite subtle but this photo shows them quite well. The foot is a different shape - with a central ridge and a sort of 'skirt' round it and the pattern on the skin is different if you look closely. I think they are lovely creatures ...but I could be biased of course!

 

Comment

Comment

Meet the Snails

The snails put on a good performance yesterday for Clocktower Holiday playscheme. They showed off their little black teeth and explored a lot of small hands. We managed to persuade four ‘runners’ to wander about the race track for a long time before one accidentally found the edge and was declared winner. Lots of people told me about a new cartoon feature film called ‘Turbo’ about a snail that could go very fast. But having read the write-up on it I don’t think I'll bother going.

I’m sure the gardeners of this world will be delighted to hear that this is turning out to be a very bad year for snails. My babies are still not very big and they should be nearly ready to sell by now. The late Spring followed by the extended hot dry spell have made life very difficult for them.Image

How snails cope with life in the snail farming regions of Italy I can’t begin to imagine. But my Italian Roman snails are enjoying life in Kent and especially the cherries.

Image

Comment

Comment

Roman snails: escargots de Bourgogne

In my fridge I have some beautiful Roman snails, brought here all the way from Italy for me to sell Image

The Romans brought two kinds of edible snails here 2,000 years ago along with most of the vegetables and fruits that we eat today. So they had a profound effect on our diet. They brought the common garden snail Helix aspersa which is a relative of the kind of snails I farm today. They also brought the one we call the Roman snail: Helix pomatia. It is found in the wild in chalky locations like the Kent Downs, Chilterns and Cotswolds and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It’s also often associated with sites of Roman occupation like the towns and villages along Watling Street here in Kent. Whenever local people tell me they’ve got Roman snails in their garden I feel very jealous. I think I’m going to find it difficult to sell them because I just want to keep them.

Comment