Monday, 13 July 2015

Escargots anyone?

We have had quite a long dry spell but overnight it had rained a bit and so when I went down the valley to feed the sheep this morning the wet weather had brought out some of our largest resident molluscs - Helix pomatia, know in England as Roman snails and as Burgundy or edible snails in France.  They are in fact the species of snail you will be eating if you order escargots in a French restaurant.

Helix pomatia

Helix pomatia near my ancient Nokia phone to show their large size

In France they are a relatively common native species found on a wide range of habitats with calcareous soils that give them calcium needed to build their shells that grow up to 5cm across.  In England however they are not native and were introduced by the Romans to supplement their diet (hence their name).

In mainland Europe and especially France, Roman or Burgundy snails are collected both by individuals for their own dinner and commercial operators to sell on.  However the loss of habitat and excessive commercial collecting is reducing numbers and it is now being restricted in some countries.  In England they are rare and limited to chalk grassland of southern counties where they are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  This means if you fancy heading out to collect some Roman snails you cannot as the law prohibits anyone to collect, sell, injure or kill Roman snails.

With snails such a popular dish in France there are now snail farms to breed these large molluscs, including one near to Eco-Gites of Lenault that you can visit.  

And I'll leave this particular Animal Tale with a question - how can tell if the snails pictured above are males or females?  I can tell - but can you?


  1. cannot, ever, eat a snail. I can't cope with the texture and I've been known to gag at the dinner table when others have had them. the only way you can tell the sex of a snail is by what colour hat it is're both male and female

  2. You've got me wondering if snails were introduced to Australia and just how does one determine the gender of a snail. I thought they were hermaphrodites.

  3. I cant stand snails. They are gross! We have too many in our garden! Angela x

    Angela from

  4. My daughter has just returned from her school trip to France and bought some snail pate home. Evidently it's surprisingly tasty but as I'm veggie I'll never know!

  5. Back in the dark ages when I was at school, once a year we got to try food from the countries we were studying the languages of. This meant I got to taste snails and frogs legs. I didn't dislike them but can't remember them being particularly tasty either! I know they're considered pests in our gardens but there's something remarkable about snails that I find endearing :)


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