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Are the snails in my garden edible?

M.A.:

In my garden, I have been experiencing extensive damage by snails. I have been able to curb the destruction by using the infamous beer trap that works for their cousin, the slug. My question, however, is: are the snails we have here edible? If so, can I break out my French cookbook and whip up a little escargot appetizer?

-- MB, Paradise Hills

Yes, please do, and bon appetit. In fact Helix aspera, our most common garden snail, is an illegal immigrant from France, not a true American pest. Brought to central California by some homesick Pierre, is the speculation. Like sweetbreads, frogs legs, the beret -- yet another indignity visited upon us by the French.

Anyway, H. aspera is the same booger-like item that a French menu calls petit gris escargot. There's a chance your snails have been around garden poisons or other toxins, so my team of lawyers requests that you please be careful when you gather them. So here's our recipe of the week. Collect your snails (the bigger ones are supposed to taste better); put them in a ventilated, covered bucket with cornmeal, lettuce (or herbs), and a dish of water. After a week, poke 'em to see which ones are dead. Throw those out and deslime the rest by soaking them for four hours in water with vinegar and salt. Rinse 'em; boil 'em for 15 minutes; deshell; sauté in butter, wine, garlic, whatever seems right. Grandma Alice also has a nifty recipe for earthwormburgers sent to her by the University of Wisconsin, once a hotbed of weird cuisine, apparently. Personally, I figure if I can't eat better than those Survivor pinheads, I'm shopping in the wrong store.

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M.A.:

In my garden, I have been experiencing extensive damage by snails. I have been able to curb the destruction by using the infamous beer trap that works for their cousin, the slug. My question, however, is: are the snails we have here edible? If so, can I break out my French cookbook and whip up a little escargot appetizer?

-- MB, Paradise Hills

Yes, please do, and bon appetit. In fact Helix aspera, our most common garden snail, is an illegal immigrant from France, not a true American pest. Brought to central California by some homesick Pierre, is the speculation. Like sweetbreads, frogs legs, the beret -- yet another indignity visited upon us by the French.

Anyway, H. aspera is the same booger-like item that a French menu calls petit gris escargot. There's a chance your snails have been around garden poisons or other toxins, so my team of lawyers requests that you please be careful when you gather them. So here's our recipe of the week. Collect your snails (the bigger ones are supposed to taste better); put them in a ventilated, covered bucket with cornmeal, lettuce (or herbs), and a dish of water. After a week, poke 'em to see which ones are dead. Throw those out and deslime the rest by soaking them for four hours in water with vinegar and salt. Rinse 'em; boil 'em for 15 minutes; deshell; sauté in butter, wine, garlic, whatever seems right. Grandma Alice also has a nifty recipe for earthwormburgers sent to her by the University of Wisconsin, once a hotbed of weird cuisine, apparently. Personally, I figure if I can't eat better than those Survivor pinheads, I'm shopping in the wrong store.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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