Monday, May 16, 2011
Mushrooms and Snails Anyone?
I've been reading a bit about eating snails. In the woods all around here there are tons of big snails with brownish, grey shells about 1" in diameter. I believe they may be the brown garden snail (Helix aspersa) variety introduced from Europe sometime in the past century. I haven't been able to find them in any Pacific NW guide books. I have seen some of the brown garden snail variety around, but way more of these slightly different looking ones. Anyway, I figured these would make an abundant survival food, not to mention the gourmet appetizer, escargot which is traditionally made from the brown garden snail. I did some research online and found nothing about any snails being toxic per se, but there has been research showing snails and slugs to be carriers of rat lung worm, a nasty parasite that can be transmitted to humans and cause a rare form of meningitis and/or death. Scary, but supposedly cooking them well like most wild meats, will kill any potential parasites.
So I did it. I gathered a bunch of snails and put them in a container with some corn meal for 3 days. According to a number of sources, this allows the snails to purge any toxic plants/nasty stuff they may have been munching on. After 3 days, I dropped the little buggers in some boiling water for about 15 min. I then used a nut pick to pull them from their shells and remove the "gall bladder" which I read is at the tail end of the snail, a sort of brown gland thing. With traditional escargot the snail is then placed back in the shell with a dollop of pesto on top for a fetching presentation. I didn't want to hassle with this so I just sauted them in some butter along with green onions and some morel mushrooms which I had just discovered that day, growing in some mulch in our asparagus bed! Now it was getting seriously gourmet.
I settled in for a little afternoon tapas of snails and morels. Wow! Amazing! It was delicious. My wife didn't want to join me though. The snails tasted and had a texture much like muscles or clams. Some further wikipedia searching revealed that many cultures around the world eat snails and have since prehistoric times. Makes sense. They are plentiful, nutritious and tasty. If anyone has any info about what type of snail this is in my picture above, please let me know. This is the beginning of a series of blog posts I intend to write about unusual wild foods in my area.