Viewing entries tagged
snail farming


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.



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


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Snail farming for all!

I've been reading an old book in French by a writer called Henri Chevalier and writing about snail farming to update my booklet for would be snail farmers. It's fascinating to look back at what was written a few decades ago and compare it with the situation now. Chevalier hardly mentions Helx aspersa maxima which seems to be the main variety that people want in the UK. Image

He refers to it in passing as a giant race from North Africa and then moves on to talking about 'l'escargot petit gris' which is his main topic. He waxes lyrical about Burgundy snails (our Roman snails: Helix pomatia) and has some very rude things to say about the small snails eaten in Spain in what he described as a vague tomato sauce!

I would say that the snail farming market now is in a state of dynamic change. When I first started it seemed fairly fixed - maybe that was an illusion but it felt as though there were a few farmers in the UK, a few in Eastern Europe and lots in France. I was aware of the markets in Spain and Italy and gradually became aware of snail farmers in Greece. Now I get enquiries every week from snail farms in Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus and all sorts of other countries. They nearly all tell me they are about to start producing tons of snails and have only just started looking for who is going to buy them. That does seem like the wrong way round to me!  The first rule of starting a business surely is to establish if there is a market for your product otherwise you could be in for an expensive disappointment.

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Party packs and restaurant packs

This weekend I've been revamping the online shop. It all came about through spending three days talking to other entrepreneurs about business. Doug Richards of Dragons' Den fame runs the course S4CS and he and his team are very good value for money! As a result I've taken a fresh look at who my customers are and what they want. Now I've got party packs for enthusiastic cooks, who will buy on those occasions when they have invited a few friends round for dinner or running a supper club.

It's that time of year when I'm keeping a close eye on the weather in case it suddenly gets cold. A lot of the snails are still outside and happily munching their way through spinach and apples. I've managed to get a few lovely big marrows which cheered them up - they can polish of one of those in no time. When it gets too cold they will 'shut up shop' - stop eating and start going into hibernation then they have to come indoors. Their winter quarters are not quite ready yet but I think I've got another week at least to finish that off. This is what they look like tucked up in their shells:-


Andy Hunting has posted a piece about me and the book and a recipe onto his food blog - I'm now starting to prepare for the paperback launch next Saturday at Brogdale so if you are in the area do come along and join me between 3 and 5 in the afternoon. I'll be in the Marketplace so you can go into the Apple Festival if you want to but you don't have to.

E-book and paperback both available from Amazon: