Unusual, but today is a no-cook day for me. I’m feeding the snails.
Snails (called saligaria or kohli) are a favorite Greek food and Crete is famous for dishes made with these little wonders. Right now, I’m preparing to make one of them, but first, I have to feed the snails.
It all started last week when I bought some leeks and found several good-sized snails munching away on the stalks… the first I’ve seen this season (except for the very small ones in my patio planters and the packaged snails at the market). These are land snails – which meant that foraging around in the wet garden should produce an ample quantity. I’ve got about 80 – enough for 6 people since a few or several may not make the final cut.
August is high season for naturally fat snails, so these first snails of the season aren’t really ready… they haven’t had time to eat and get fat. So, following the age-old practice of fattening them up, I’m feeding them.
For all of you who have edible land snails in your garden (and those who don’t but are insatiably curious), this is how I do it.
- Put the snails into a large cardboard box or other container. Whatever container used has to allow air to flow in and out.
- Sprinkle flour or pasta in the box, and the snails will start to eat.
- As the snails eat, they excrete fluid, so they and the box need to be cleaned… every day.
- Take the box or container outside and carefully scoop out the snails, putting them on the patio or other surface.
- Shake out the box then wipe down with a dry cloth.
- Carefully wipe off the snails a bit (they’re not crazy about being handled) and put them back in the box.
- Add some fresh flour or a handful of pasta (flour and pasta are snail faves).
The process of eating (and getting fatter) and excreting and cleaning goes on for at least 8 days.
When the snails have eaten their fill and have nothing left to excrete, they pull into their shells and form a lip across the top that seals it closed. Of course, this lip will have to be removed before cooking, but I’m not worried about that right now. I’m just feeding the snails.