Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Slow farming with snails, or Heliculture

Per the QLD MUSEUM WEBSITE: The European Garden Snail now classified as Cornu aspersum has previously been known as Cantareus aspersus and Helix aspersa.

From the Code of Practice (not yet altered to reflect the name change):

The recommended species for free-range snail farming is Cantareus aspersus formerly Helix aspersa —
first described in Italy by Müller in 1774. It is a terrestrial snail and is herbivorous. It is known in Australia as the common brown garden snail. Note: The anatomy or DNA of this group was examined and revised with the
conclusion that the aspersa species does not belong to members of the Helix genus. Hence the systematic transfer and reclassification in the genus Cantareus.
Darryl Potter (MEnvSc,DipBiolSc), Biodiversity Collection Manager,

Marine Zoology (Crustacea & Mollusca)Queensland Museum)

SNAIL FARMING CODE OF PRACTICE

SNAIL FARMING IN AUSTRALIA

RURAL INDUSTRIES RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

My own experience:

I thought I'd better start recording the progress of the snail farm. At first I thought it would all go very slowly, being snails and all, but it's progressing much quicker than I thought it would.

It all started when Valerie organised a terrific visit to the Glasshouse Gourmet Snail farm on 1st February this year. See HERE for the report and pics and details of the correct snails to use and cooking methods.

I've long wanted to grow some kind of protein in my backyard.

Chooks will come down the track when the killer dogs are gone and the aviary is empty. Quails were contemplated after visiting Joanne's home with her wonderful set up, but much the same problem as keeping the chooks.

Aquaculture grabbed my interest for a bit....until I attended some workshops and found out how expensive and time consuming it all is, let alone the manpower needed to create it.

So I've ended up with snails. Really quite good eating if prepared correctly.

Can I throw my delicate little friends into boiling water when the time comes? Some doubt it, including myself. It's been suggested that I'm going to end up with hundreds of new pets that I can't bring myself to eat. Time will tell!

Some interesting facts about edible snails:

From GLASSHOUSE GOURMET SNAILS:

There are over 80,000 different species of snails world wide Helix Aspersa Muller (common brown garden snail) is Australia's only edible snail and must be prepared correctly before consumption.

Do not collect them from the garden to eat. (Having said this on their website, Cliff also told us he collected his original stock from his choko vine - I'd say he means don't just eat them from the garden without first purging/preparing).

The common brown snail was introduced into Australia by the early European settlers nearly 200 years ago.
They soon discovered a more readily available source of protein was available in our bush land, the practice of Heliculture (Snail farming) was soon abandoned.

Our snails are fed a high protein, high calcium grain diet supplemented with fresh vegetables. They can eat an amount equal to 40% of their own body weight in about 24 hours.
They reproduce by laying eggs in the soil, eggs are round and pearly in colour, which can number 50 to 100. Snail eggs do not hatch, after about 3 weeks they form into perfect replicas of the adults, only very small, they take 9 months to mature and the cycle begins again.

Helix Aspersa is an excellent source of nutritious food. The meat contains very little cholesterol or fat and its composition also includes many of the vitamins and minerals required for a healthy and well balanced diet.

Article: HELICULTURE - Farming Snails for the table

Snails take 9 to 12mths from hatching before they are ready to eat and need to be 3cm in length and weigh 8gms in size. Snails are hermaphrodites ie each snail contains both male and female parts (see internal diagram) and must mate with another snail to produce eggs which they lay in the soil.

From Encyclopaedia for Life:

This snail is mainly nocturnal but will emerge after rain during the day. It moves by means of a muscular foot; the mucus secreted by the foot aids with movement and leaves a tell-tale track behind. They feed on a range of plant matter, and can be serious pests of gardens

This snail has a strong homing instinct, and spends the day, often in large groups, beneath stones and other structures. They hibernate through the winter in similar locations

Garden snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that one individual possesses both male and female reproductive organs; although they are able to self-fertilise, most snails mate with another snail. Reproduction takes place in early summer, and begins with pairing and courtship. After a period in which the members of the pair caress each other with their tentacles, each snail pierces the skin of its partner with a calcareous 'love dart', a spiny projection which is covered in mucus.

The function of this love dart is unclear, but it is thought that the mucus may act to improve the survival of sperm. Mating then takes place; each snail inserts its penis into its partner at the same time. The snails separate, and the sperm is stored internally until the eggs are ripe. After the eggs have been fertilised, the snails dig pits in the soil in which to lay the eggs. Hatch-lings have translucent, delicate shells. 

The garden snail is edible, and snail farming is currently a booming cottage industry in Britain. This species has also been used for centuries in traditional medicine, for example, broth made from the mucus was used to treat sore throats.

From AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM:

Generally, snails found in your garden will be introduced species, which have two pairs of tentacles, rather than one pair as in native snails and slugs. - See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Garden-Snail#sthash.a23N6E5a.dpu

The Garden Snail was introduced to Australia from Europe. It is always associated with human populations and rarely encountered away from cities. This edible snail is commercially raised in Australia and exported to countries such as France where it is eaten as 'escargot'. Cantareus (Helix) aspersus is slightly smaller than the French species (Helix pomatia), which does not occur in Australia but apparently has a similar taste. - See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Garden-Snail#sthash.a23N6E5a.dpuf

The Garden Snail was introduced to Australia from Europe. It is always associated with human populations and rarely encountered away from cities. This edible snail is commercially raised in Australia and exported to countries such as France where it is eaten as 'escargot'. Cantareus (Helix) aspersus is slightly smaller than the French species (Helix pomatia), which does not occur in Australia but apparently has a similar taste. - See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Garden-Snail#sthash.a23N6E5a.dpuf

SNAIL FARMING IN AUSTRALIA website.

PREPARING YOUR SNAILS FOR EATING:

Once they reach the correct size they need to be purged for up to a week to remove all gritty residue of food from their digestive tract. During this time they can just be kept in a plastic box with holes in it, deprived of food and washed out twice daily as GGS suggest, or they can be fed a diet of bran or milk.

After purging they are ready for eating. Preparation involves dropping the snail into boiling water for 2.5mins only! Overcooking will result in a chewy snail. The meat is then winkled out of the shell and used in whatever manner desired.

MY SET UP:

There are different methods of snail farming including "free range" where the snails live in a large enclosure with fresh greens growing and there is this more intensive method I'm using in my small backyard.

There will potentially be 100's of snails in my box eventually. Snails like to avoid each others slime trails  Over-slimed ground and excess faeces can modify snail behaviour by putting out chemical signals like pheromones — detrimental to reproduction and growth rates in terrestrial snails. (NOTE: This bit about snails trails is hooha according to Cliff from GGS).

With this in mind, the box needs to be hosed out once or twice a day to remove trails and faeces (worms in the soil will eat this bounty of poo) and fresh food placed in the box.

Valerie's husband Rhys and their boys made me a beautiful snail farm box, as per the ones at the commercial snail farm. Chook food containing molasses (as per the commercial farm) was obtained and ground up.

I started collecting the edible snails from my garden one by one. NOTE I know now these snails I was collecting are in fact Tramp Snails and not generally considered eating snails. Too small?

As per the commercial farm, I've put some boards to hold the food and a water container in the bottom.

One of the first residents hightailing it over the side away from the food. Well, it was broad daylight and he/she had just been kidnapped and re-housed. NOTE The snails I was finding in my yard turned out to be Tramp Snails. Smaller, flatter, paler and with a small hole in the centre of the vortex of the shell.

Fast (?) forward to 07.04.14 and I now have five snails in residence (08.04 found 3 more this morning so now 8) NOTE all turned out to be Tramps Snails, not Garden Snails. I found a batch all the same size on the Betel Leaf some weeks back and think these are the same ones, but now spread around the garden. Some tiny ones have gone in as well but not seen any sign of them again.

They don't seem to want to eat any fresh greens. Rather they go for the rotting vegetation....plus the commercial food. Found one the other night eating the ground chook food alongside a much larger slug. I tend to find my snails in broad daylight, often first thing in the morning. No sign of them at all when I go around with a torch at night.

16.05.14

Below - the real deal! Garden Snails. Note the darker colour, markings and more rounded shell.

I've visited Cliff and Mary once more at Glasshouse Gourmet Snails and brought home 24 mature snails ($20) to start the farm off right. Cliff recommends covering the cage in bird wire to stop any rats gnawing through the shade cloth cover. NOTE This turned out to be prophetic as a rat ended up raiding my farm nightly, stealing my maturing babies a few at a time until I had hardly anything left. Friends came around and helped me add rodent mesh to the outside of the farm but it was too late. Luckily some of the snails had escaped into the general garden and set up home on the other side of the yard around the large tub of water.

Release time and they all woke up quite quickly once placed on the ground and sprinkled with water.

Everything was checked out before heading for cover and more sleep. Oddly they seemed to want to travel in pairs or packs. Only a couple ventured off on their own.

Here's a pair of them heading for the top in unison where the majority of the snails closed up shop and went back to sleep. A couple just stayed on the wood down below, asleep. And one went into the black tub I provided....and went to sleep.

18.05.14

Day two with the new pets :)

I checked on them a couple of times late yesterday evening and they were still sleeping. Checked again at 4.30 this morning and they were stirring. The majority went back to sleep when the sun came up properly.

Turns out they really like carrot more than anything else on offer.

When the lid was opened I found many had made their way to the "ceiling". Trying to escape?

11.08.14

It's proven difficult to keep track of all 24 snails, they're very good at hiding even in an enclosed area like this. I know at least two have died as I have found their empty shells. Last count I could only find 17 adults but they have been BUSY! I now have 100's of baby snails hatching out and they are so delicate and gorgeous (can't wait for them to grow up so I can eat them!).

Below, some of the adults. They like to hide in dark, cool places and this pot sits in the corner of the pen.

Baby's in the rim of the pot.....

03.09.14

Spring, and the weather is starting to warm. Baby snails are hatching aplenty and taking part in the day to day activities of the farm exactly the same as the adults. They hang from the top and sides.

I've found escapees in the general garden! I have left the lid open at least three times by mistake now during the day and night and did wonder if any found their way out into the world. Proof was found in the brocolli bed yesterday and the Betel Leaf area when I cut it back this morning. Unfortunately I trod on one of them, breaking it's shell without killing the poor thing outright. It's doomed as they can't reconstruct their shells.

THIS IS WHERE I DISCOVER THAT... I have a ring-in snail in the garden. It looks a lot like Cornu aspersum but it has a little hole in the underside, where the whirls come together and the shell is more flatish than the Garden snail. Not edible (?) per Cliff from Glasshouse Gourmet Snails who pointed one out to me when I bought my breeding stock from him.

As far as I can tell it's Bradybaena similaris or Asian Trampsnail.

07.10.14

Oddly, the Trampsnail numbers in the garden are increasing. I find them sitting on the outside of my snail farm and some time on the inside! plus elsewhere in the garden. I know I put some in there by mistake early on - perhaps they have laid eggs. Sometimes I find my Garden snails on the outside also. There's a hole in the netting which I thought I had plugged but they must be getting out. I have found some of my mature snails in the very far raised bed and surrounds also. They seem to like the Betel leaf which has now been cut back. (NOTE They don't like the Betel Leaf when there are other greens on offer).

Baby's galore are growing at a fast rate. Will be a few more weeks at the most and I should be able to prepare some snails for eating. But not too many, I need to build up the numbers.

They are eating vast quantities of food. I can actually hear them all eating when I check on them at night. By dawn they are creeping into their dark crevices to sleep for the day.

It was difficult taking a photo in focus in the pitch black but this is the best one showing some of the activity inside the box at night time.

24.02.15

Well - an almost complete failure. A rat kept getting into the farm despite my best efforts and decimated the stock every night. Took them away to eat them as there were no empty shells to be seen, just dwindling numbers and a new hole to fix. Plus I think the heat of summer was just too much for them.

I ended up letting the few remaining snails go free range. Some had escaped over time also and were living around the garden. Many gravitated to the only regular source of water around - the pond (large black tub with food plants in it). Some nights I count as many as 10. I go out every other night and leave them carrots, cucumber and ground up chook food. Sometimes they go walkies around the yard, but I find them and bring them back.

The constant rain last week courtesy of the cyclone brought many out to cruise around, no doubt looking for tidbits to eat. I didn't see two of them in the dark with the torch and trod on them :( Who said snails were hardy and prolific...not this mob. Very delicate and susceptible to dying.

Pond on the left. Hideout under the tubs on the right.

Some of the, now pet, snails hiding out under the bucket complete with Huntsman guarding eggs for company.

One of the snails hightailing it up to the water to rehydrate.

Not giving up. Just taking stock of the situation. It may turn out to be too hot here to farm snails. I would like to try the free range option of an enclosed space if I had more room.

26.06.15

A few weeks back I gathered up all the remaining snails, 21 of them, and put them back into the refurbished snail farm as the cooler weather is coming. I wanted them to lay eggs in one place though the prospect of tiny snails hatching around the yard doesn't bother me - I will just collect them as I find them.

Below: Inside the snail farm the remaining adult snails have been having a lot of romantic moments plus enjoying the food layed on - favourite tucker is the usual carrots, cucumber, ground chook food, greens (preferably brassica type - not keen on Betel Leaf and take or leave Aibika but they do like the A Choy).

These romantic moments have resulted in a lot of egg laying. Beautiful little white spherical eggs, but it seems it will be the last act for these now very mature snails.

I don't expect many of these adults to be around when Spring comes but they're progeny will live on and we'll give it another go next warm season.

2016

09.08.16

Somewhere in one of my blogs I talk about releasing all my snails - sometime around the end of summer. I just couldn't bring myself to throw any of these beautiful little creatures into boiling water.

They are really quite delicate and die at the drop of a hat...which includes hot weather, not enough water around etc. I haven't seen more than one young snail all winter.

This morning I was taking flower photos in the front yard and was thrilled to find this pair working on creating a new generation. Yeah, I know I could live to regret my moments of weakness with my "pets" but they do so little damage and are so much fun to watch while they go through their little life cycle.

Views: 2226

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Brisbane Local Food to add comments!

Join Brisbane Local Food

Comment by Lissa on January 10, 2016 at 16:45

Too cute Phil. I confess. I would study them by torchlight each night when I went out to feed them. Mind you if I was starving I would cook them no trouble. Having a freezer full of food means the incentive to cook my pets just isn't there.

Comment by Phil on January 10, 2016 at 13:43

I must admit I didn't expect this from you Lissa as after all you are ruthless with vegetables if they don't perform. Too cute for you?

Comment by Lissa on January 10, 2016 at 13:30

Update - a couple of months back I let them all loose. Couldn't bring myself to kill what had become pets :/

Comment by Lissa on April 9, 2014 at 4:41

I've got a lot to learn. Luckily a lot of information is already available on the web...and the rest I'll pick up as I go along.

Could eventually become a viable business.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on April 8, 2014 at 19:45

Given the way snails pack themselves in to tiny spaces, your box could have hundreds living in there. What do snails eat? Never looked into that but I have looked into worms - earth and compost. They eat the microbes on the food, not the food itself. Fortunately I don't have snails or slugs here, but all I've ever heard about them is that they eat leaves, stems and other green stuff. Maybe, maybe not … they do have rasping teeth. Researching snail culture would be fascinating.

Comment by Lissa on April 8, 2014 at 17:44

I don't have the capability of creating a fish pond Steve. Physically I'm just not capable of digging something and I don't have the room for an above ground pond. Plus I don't want something ugly.

I'm sure if I asked the snail farm people they would give me some idea of quantity of snails to box size. They had hundreds per box but I don't know the exact specification of their boxes. I'm not concerned. If I reach a quantity that I think is too much for the box then I'll eat them!

Too late re the naming :/ There's one of them that loves to muck around in the "pond" and I've become quite fond of it already.

Comment by Stevo on April 8, 2014 at 11:18

Nice set up Lissa. Do the snail farm people recommend a minimum size per amount of snails or doesn't it matter? I assume you could grow one hundred or so in there? Maybe you shouldn't handle them or name them incase you become too attached :-) Interesting to read that you're searching for different things to do. If Aquaponics is a bit over the top, how about just a fish pond to grow fish? Still a little bit of work but may not be as fiddly as Aquaponics?

Photos

  • Add Photos
  • View All

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Organic Farm Share

Ads by Google

© 2017   Created by Farina Murray.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service