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escargots

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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.

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learning about living things

If you were up at the crack of dawn and watching early morning Sunday television, you might have seen the molluscs and me on the BBC 1 Breakfast Show. See the video here. It was a lovely gentle summer day when Helier Cheung from BBC World Service came to film and I talked to her about my crowd-funding campaign due to be launched on 22 September. Unfortunately that section got lost in the editing but you can read all about it and watch the video here.

mini snail farm

I think it is so important for children to learn about living things that I want to do what I can to encourage schools. If we can raise enough funds we want to give 50 mini snail farms to schools in areas where the children may not have the opportunity to play outside or bring living things into school.Commissioning teaching materials to go with the mini snail farms will be next on the agenda. But it all depends on getting the funds in and in turn that depends on all of you reading this blog.

Some people are organising fund-raising events for us, sponsored walks or coffee mornings or whatever you want to do really. But all donations are welcome; at this stage cheques payable to H&RH Escargots please and send to 18 St Vincents Close, Littlebourne, Canterbury Kent CT3 1TZ. After 22 September payments go through Indiegogo. Please pass on the message to all your friends, especially those who care about education. Thank you very much for your support.

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Makegood Festival

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I'm just beginning to feel almost human again after spending a frenetic four days with the molluscs at Makegood Festival in the Old Selfridges Hotel promoting snail eating. It was definitely worthwhile going because of the interest the escargots sparked in all the trade visitors especially, but it was exhausting!

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Miss Papercut (Steph Hosmer) was there demonstrating the way she works to produce those gorgeous images. Steph designed my lovely new business cards and suite of colours and fonts for the new website. So I've asked her to help with the design of some new packaging - looking forward to some lovely curly snail patterns.

I'm always interested to see new small food businesses and Sweet Victory is well on the way to getting started:

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Georgina has tapped into that nostalgia for wartime combined with the resurgent passion for baking so evident in today's TV programmes. We met Frances Quinn the winner of the 2013 Great British Bake Off over the weekend too as she was chairing a panel of food entrepreneurs. Georgina is planning to produce a range of baking kits so you can make heritage recipes at home.

ImageThe first range of historical cakes are based on 1940's recipes taken from sources such as Ministry of Food leaflets tweaked a little to suit modern tastes.

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I tried the Carrot rock cakes and enjoyed them very much. It took me back to cookery lessons at school and my pathetic attempts - somehow my rock cakes always ended up hard and inedible but Georgina's were delicious. If you want to know more contact Georgina Coveney by email : georginacoveney@gmail.com

 

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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!

 

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Snails race to earn their keep!

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These intrepid performers are on their way home now at the end of a tiring day at work. Here they are stretching themselves out for the cameras, racing for the line, best foot forward.  These escargots certainly look like they know which side their bread's buttered! Made Visual Studios in London employed them to make an animation film and I can't wait to see the final piece.

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Even the snails have a spring in their step!

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Cowslips on Barham Downs! When the sun's out you can almost overlook the grey sludge on the village green left by the receding flood. Most of the roads have re-opened now the big blue water pipes have nearly all gone home. There's a few cellars still being pumped out and we're told the River Nailbourne will probably be running across all those normally dry fords until June. Come to think of it - if anyone's looking for a business idea, I imagine flood rescue is booming.

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It's amazing the effect on the spirits of a row of treees covered in pink blossom. But that unobtrusive dark green box is the significant feature of this picture. It's a telecommunications junction box. We had to put up with traffic lights in the most inconvenient place while 'they' dug up the road but I'm told it's all going to be worth it. At last, our4 broadband service might improve! And you can't sell escargots without the internet.But the molluscs seem to have other things on their minds at the moment. Let's hope we get lots of little babies.  

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Snails feature in Staff Canteen

You know a food has really made it when it is featured in Staff Canteen and today it's snails! http://www.thestaffcanteen.com/editorial/snails-the-food-of-the-future

When I heard the feature was coming up I spent a whole day with www.little_and_loud creating a brand new website. There was quite a lot of preparation before hand. First I decided to use the curvy stylised snail from my book cover designed by http://www.jdsmith-design.com/

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and then http://misspapercut.com/ created some colourways for the logo and chose a font. She went for lovely subtle fired earth colours and the green on green in particular looks very 'Harrods' - just perfect for an upmarket product. This time we went for a simple site so that busy chefs can find what they want easily http://www.hrh-escargots.co.uk/ but we're keeping the original website too http://www.snailfarm.org.uk/ because it serves a different purpose.

They asked me for some recipes so I asked Chef Craig Mather at East Kent College if I could give them his recipe for snails with fish. He agreed and I told them that it was his recipe not mine but they still put it in as mine - hope he forgives me! Happy days!

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Escargots for Lent!

Did you know that snails are traditionally eaten at Lent? It springs from the notion that if it's a mollusc it must be seafood and therfore by extension theologically classified as 'fish'. Monks were very good at getting round the rules it seems and calling snails 'wallfish' was a good strategy. So they could be eaten on Fridays and Lent was an opportunity not be missed for a positive escargot bonanza! In mild weather like this, after all that interminable rain, snails should be easy to find. They'll be emerging from their winter hibernation all over the place and if you can catch them before they start eating they won't need purging either.

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sleeping snail with the 'duvet' pulled over its head

This is a busy time of year for seasonal snail farmers as it's the beginning of the breeding season. As soon as they emerge from hibernation the snails will be cleaning their shells and hanging about in a public place waiting for a potential mate to pass by. As Cahal Milmo said in his recent lovely article in the Independent, British snail famers just can't keep up with demand from customers for home grown escargots. So if you are thinking about joining this select band of enthusiasts why not come on a snail farming course and learn how to do it? http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/snails-farmers-just-cant-keep-up-with-demand-from-british-diners-9057148.html

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