This may come as a surprise to unsuspecting Americans that May 24th is listed on the National Day Calendar as the day honoring a French dish involving cooked land snails- The National Escargot Day.
Although snail eating is not something desirable to most American families, it is commonly served as an appetizer or starter meal throughout the old world of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
In fact, piles of snail shells of numerous species have been found in various archaeological digs in Mediterranean regions. The Romans especially had a taste for the juicy fresh of snails and introduced snail cultivation far and wide.
In the middle ages, snails were commonly reared at monasteries and Christian households as snails being neither meat nor fish, were allowed to be eaten during the month of Lent. They were every man meat before gaining the reputation as the highly priced delicacy in French restaurants.
It is an excellence alternate food source as snails can be found practically anywhere and do not require huge space or investment to farm them.
Nutritional value of snail
Edible snails are a desirable source of protein as they are composed of 80% water, 2.4% fat and 15% protein.
Edible snail species
The most commonly eaten snail species are the Roman snail Helix pomatia, the small “petit-gris” garden snail Cornu aspersa , and the Helix lucorum. The Roman snails are highly valued larger edible mollusk but are harder to reared commercially. There are other species of edible snails but they are either too small or simply not palatable enough to worth the effort.
If the snails are free range, it is advisable to fast them for 3-4 days in an airy container, follow by at least another 1-2 days of feeding of suitable herbs or cereal to fatten them up. This is called the process of purging to allow the snails to excrete any harmful material from their guts.
To prepare the French Escargot, the snails are dropped into a pail of boiling water briefly to kill them. The meat is then removed from the shells, sautéed with butter or olive oil with wine, garlic, and herbs. The meat is then slotted back into the shells with the sauce for serving. The dish is often served on a specially designed plate with accompanying special tong and fork for the ease of diners.
In Asia, where the consumption of various mollusks is fairly common, the snails are cooked in a variety of ways with the shells intact and presented intact usually. The diners extract the meat with toothpicks or forks just before consumption and usually dipped the flesh in hot sauce or soy source.
Besides Europe, snail farming is slowly but surely expanding in popularity across the globe. As more people are exposed to escargot eating, the sooner it can be accepted as another common table food.