Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wild Edibles, Escargot

 ©  JT Barnhart 2011
Escargot is kind of an odd one but not something foodies will typically shy away from unless they are non-meat eaters anyway. Harvesting even a half dozen decent sized snails can really be a boon to a meal for those that like them, even better if you grow your own garlic and make a small batch of fresh butter.

They are certainly easy to catch and often found in abundance after a heavy rain, so right about the same time and hopefully in the same places you might hunt mushrooms. Though, you can even find them on the exterior walls of buildings in Nob Hill and Russian Hill, unexpected but welcome. I've gathered them on a random walk home more than once and simply put them in an empty paper coffee cup. They seem to do well in our backyard herb garden. It's certainly possible to keep them in a container, I'd imagine if you kept it strictly to vegetables you could even keep them in your compost bin. Though, I have yet to try to raise them in anything resembling captivity.

It may be an urban legend, but local foragers claim the snails in Nob Hill are all descended from a bunch that a chef released after his restaurant closed in the 1920's. Could be, sounds plausible anyway and I've never checked to see what snails might be native vs invasive, you can eat all of them either way.

The consistent recommendation has been to pick them, put them in a container with a  secure lid and feed them things like carrots, apples and basil for a few days before letting them fast for few more to the get that out of their system as well.   This gets unknown things and grit out of their system. After purging you'll need to wash them several time as well. It's a fairly lengthy but simple process and there are lots of opinions on how it should be done with a wealth of information on the web if you want to give it a try. The main point is that they are out there and with a little butter and herbs they're quite good.

If someone is interested  and lets me know,I can write up something more in depth on how to prepare these little morsels. It's not tough and they're certainly worth the effort.


  1. Are all snails edible? I live in the Northeast and I don't know what Nob hill is but it sounds like a local landmark

  2. Nob Hill is in San Fancisco. As far as I know all snails are edible. Some aquatic snails might have caveats but I've eaten plenty.

    Nob Hill is unique because a French chef let his escargot loose but they're harmless. Feed them carrots or lettuce, spinach is nice, for a couple days before you cook them and they'll be good!