How To Identify Edible Snails

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails?

Everyone that can stand the slimy sight seems to pick up snails regardless of whether they are edible snails or not.

Snails are found in our backyards, farmlands and we tend to touch without care. Now to my question; are they all edible snails?

Snail meat is a delicious, nourishing and nutritious delicacy world over.

Despite the fact that some cultures are not interested in these creatures and see them as a taboo; yet they are gaining more acceptance and their demand is even huge.

Snail meat have been a part of man’s diet from time immemorial and some are even eating their cousins; the slugs! One man’s food they say is another man’s poison after all, it may be yucky to you but sumptuous to others.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Snail Stew Served With Rice

I learnt recently that there’s a day dedicated to snail delicacy, May 24; National Escargot Day in the United States.

Almost all restaurants would serve a snail delicacy on that day and it is always a good day to try new recipes.

Almost all land snails are edible and would not cause any unpleasant feeling if they are cooked thoroughly.

There are many species to choose from depending on your geographical location.

The most commonly consumed in Nigeria is the giant African land snail.

The French word ‘escargot’ even mean ‘edible snails’, and is used to refer to both the snail dish and the live snails of the particular species prepared and eaten that way.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails?

Edible snails can be purchased from the local markets, snail farmers and supermarkets.

Another source of snail collection is from the bushes and forests around especially during the rainy season; this is free protein and the most common way of getting snails in Africa.

How To Recognize Edible Snails

Snails look pretty much the same; so how do you know which species are edible snails and which snail is not edible?

Snails unlike poultry are easy to pick or collect without stress; they are just about the corner in cool, moist and wet places.

They are abundant in the rainy season so after a rain, you can expect to see them in large numbers cruising around the garden.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails? The Giant African Land Snail

Snails can be divided into three major categories depending on where they live; land snails, freshwater snails and sea snails.

As stated earlier, the land category is very edible while the other two require extra caution.

Snail Size In Knowing Edible Snails

Most land snails are big in size and are very edible except for some species.

The big snails are just so visible that you cannot miss them even when they are hiding behind the flower pot.

Although some snail species are not so big, it is important to know the specie you are about to pick up or collect whether for consumption or otherwise.

Some small sized snails are also edible but washing, processing them is stressful and difficult and may not be worth it.

These small sized edible snails may be used as condiments for soups and as appetizers to those who can go through the stress.

Colour In Knowing Edible Snails

Snails are usually brown in colour with cream or yellow stripes.

Snails with flashy colours require caution as the colours may mean poison, so don’t go around touching or picking them with bare hands.

Almost all land snails have this brown colour and they are edible except for the specie called the tiger snail (Anguispira alternata) which tastes funny and can be recognized by the characteristic pattern on its shell that makes it look like of course, a tiger.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails? Golden Apple Snail

Some freshwater snails are similarly edible like the apple snail specie although very risky due to the parasite schistosomias which is found in water.

They are risky to touch and definitely consume.

The schistosomia parasite is transmitted through freshwater and can get into a person’s body through the skin and contact with the contaminated water.

Sea snails are almost all perfectly edible and they can be picked up from the shallow part of the sea water body.

A typical example are the periwinkles commonly used in soups in the southern part of Nigeria.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Periwinkles; A Seawater Specie

Health Issues Associated With Eating Snails

Most often than not, the main problem with snail meat consumption is undercooking and nor properly cleaned snails.

Edible snails don’t kill; it’s the human’s processing that should be looked into.

Non edible snails on the other hand can cause snail fever.

The health problems associated with edible snails can be easily avoided; clean and wash off all offals and stones.

Snails are known to eat various species of vegetation and it is possible for farmers to have use pesticides, fertilizers on these vegetations. 

It is also important to stick with the snails you are familiar with and can purchase from the snail farmer or snail markets.

Do not go around picking snails from the forest as you may not recognize the exact specie especially when there is varieties in particular species.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails? The Tiger Snail

Stomach Upset

As good as it is to try out new delicacies, it is important to test your stomach before you consuming a huge plate of snails especially if you haven’t eaten snails before.

If there are no negative reactions after an hour, then you are good to go!

Snails are not poisonous by themselves but they can host parasites dangerous to human health.

Snails have been known to host lungworm; which they get infected with when they come in contact with rodents excreta.

Proper cooking should remove the worms but you would have probably touched the snail before cooking.

Therefore, it is necessary to pick up snails using gloves and wash hands thoroughly after cooking.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails? Snail Diseases

Snail Fever

This is usually associated with freshwater snails as they are the primary host of the schistosome parasite which causes snail fever.

It can have severe consequences as the symptoms do not even show until about four weeks after infection.

There are species associated with this parasite and transmission is usually by touch not necessarily by consumption.

It is important to use gloves when dealing with snails.

Symptoms of snail fever include malaise, general feeling of weakness, followed by a light rash.

There are no known vaccines therefore; prevention is the best medicine.

Conclusion

The easiest way to recognize edible snails is the colour! Bright, colourful and flashy signals a serious warning to predators; man inclusive, so be careful to even pick them up with bare hands.

Snails when not properly cooked can cause health issues ranging from mild to severe indigestion.

It is important to wash, process the snails off their offals and possibly toxins before they are cooked for human consumption.

Wait! Are They Edible Snails?
Wait! Are They Edible Snails?

Saying a snail is edible does not mean they are eatable.

Do not go around picking snails with brown colour, big sized and preparing them.

Snails are nutritious but before you pick them, are they edible?

1 Comment

  1. Thanks very much for the lecture, but where do I get good specee for training and how much per one because I will buy upto hundred.

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