Friday, November 4, 2011

Heliciculture, or snail farming is the process of breeding land snails for human consumption, and more recently, for cosmetics use. For centuries, humans have used snails either as food or jewelry.

At the imperial Court in Rome, snail meat was thought to contain aphrodisiac properties and was often served to visiting dignitaries in the late evening. Modern Cretans relish the same snail dishes as their Minoan ancestors. 

Today, snails are mostly appreciated for their taste, nutritional value (high in protein and low in fat), but also for their therapeutic properties, as it is recommended in anemia treatment and as a means of combating ulcers and asthma.
  • Far from Growing at Snail’s Pace…
In nature, there are many species of edible land snails but snail breeders opt for a variety of only a dozen of species.
Most common in Europe (80% of snails in breed, covering 50% of global consumption) is the "Helix aspersa," (Latin for dotted snail). It is native to the shores of the Mediterranean and is more adaptable to different climates and conditions, making farming less risky.

Helix aspersa is predominant also in the gastronomy of western countries and, given that France is the world champion in snail consumption and that Italians devour some 360 million of them annually, it is easy to understand why the "dotted snail" has become very popular among European breeders. 
  • Helix Aspersa 'Graeca' 
During recent years, Greece has become an important exporter of snails, covering 10% of the global demand, which accounts to more than 400,000 tones.
France alone, imports 60% of its total snail consumption, and, at global scale, it is estimated that demand exceeds offer by 90%.

Greece’s mild climate and the quality of soil render snail farming sustainable and lucrative. Some 300 farmers operate in Greece and the harvest is directed both abroad and the domestic market (some 40,000 tones annually).

Cretan snails: Recipes with snails
  • Did you know… 
FAO recommends 65gr.of snails to be taken daily. The snail shell is one third of the total weight of snail. They live two to five years and move at a 10cm/minute speed. During the dry season the snails hibernate. Snails are hermaphrodite and sometimes mate with their own sex. They drink fresh water and enjoy beer.