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book review


Molluscs and me - a review of the book

Carole Youngs is editor of the Smallholder Series so I am delighted to be able to post here her review of my book:

As a keen vegetable gardener, my relationship with members of the gastropod family has been one of continuous conflict: the snails mounting incessant attack on any tender green shoots that dare show themselves in my garden, and me trying to devise ever-more devious ways to rid them from my plot. 

Then through this fact-packed book, I discovered Helix aspersa maxima, the edible snail - quite a different kettle of mollusc from those seeking to wreak havoc in my garden, though closely related. For a start Helix aspersa maxima is considerably bigger than the common-or-garden snail, with a shell diameter of 45 - 47 mm, and is highly prized by Chefs wishing to add Escargot a la Bourguignon to their menus.

This book is immensely readable, describing the author's entrepreneurial journey from a varied career in the public sector to becoming a fully fledged farmer, albeit on a small scale. Between chapters recounting her sometimes slippery path into snail farming, she provides the reader with fascinating snippets of information about the culinary and cultural history of edible snails, including lots of very tempting recipes from around the world.

As an entrepreneurial smallholder aiming to make a living in a niche market, Helen quickly realised that she needed to capture the interest of her potential customers in a wide variety of ways, from cold-calling up-market restaurants in smart seaside resorts, exhibiting at food fairs to an often bemused audience, to supplying molluscs for photographic shoots! All this promotional activity led to a 'farm visit' from a BBC crew - squeezing into the spare room where the snails then lived! Within a short space of time, Helen had become an expert in edible snail farming, and the first port of call for radio and TV producers looking for an authoritative voice on this definitely niche subject!

Seven years after becoming a snail farmer, Helen describes herself as having achieved some of the'famous' bit of 'rich and famous', and you cannot miss the real affection in which she holds her 'livestock'. I think she makes a great farmer, and this book reveals her as a highly engaging writer too.


Snail farming also has an important conservation role as, despite being a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, 'Roman' snails (Helix pomatia) continue to be plundered from the wild by those looking for a quick profit from selling them to restaurants and gastro-pubs.

Thank you Carole



Stand out from the crowd

Mslexia magazine’s latest issue arrived in the post this morning and, as usual, I couldn’t wait to tear off the plastic cover and find out what’s in it. (

‘Dare you write about your parents?’ Now that’s an arresting question as I’ve just finished writing a story which includes my daughter. It was really hard to work out how to include personal stuff in a way that wasn’t going to embarrass everyone … including me.

‘Getting your book reviewed’ was the first article I went to as it was so relevant to my current situation. There’s a couple of really useful lists: one of things to do and the other of things to avoid doing. The rest of the article is divided into 10 numbered sections each on a different topic and I found the whole thing clearly written and very helpful. I have lots of ideas - now all I’ve got to do is implement the plan!