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Slugs, snails and bugs, definitely not puppy dog tails

After my comment in a previous article about trying some slugs and snails I thought I would go and have a look at what was available. In my view food animals that rear themselves in an inhospitable environment without any effort on your side deserve a place in your survival food stores. We may not like the sound of it now but come an event and we take what we can get. I’m putting aside my prejudices, so should you.

Slugs, snails are not poisonous in themselves. They eat things that are poisonous to us such as poisonous toadstools and when we ingest them we ingest the poison. Some bugs however are poisonous although I can’t think of any that are native to the UK. We are quite lucky in that respect. Although there are several poisonous species, mainly spiders, in the UK lately as we seem to have imported a few new species. Such is the price for a global economy. However, bugs also eat food that is poisonous to humans so we need to be careful there anyway.

Rearing options
Looking beyond our Western prejudices we can see several options available to us. In a similar way we view rabbits we can view slugs, snails and bugs. We could leave them in the wild, harvest them as needed ensuring that we treat them to ensure that they are processed in a safe way for humans or we can actually set up a place for them on our land. That way we can ensure they don’t eat anything poisonous and we can feed them products to give them the flavour we would like. There is already a market for home reared snails and even books on raising snails and bugs for the food chain. Even a small area put aside can make a significant contribution to your food supply. Slugs, snails and bugs are not very big, they can’t run too far and they tend to like to hide anyway. An area for them only has to be a few feet square.

Bug farming
Two easy start items which you can do at home.

Mealworms
Raising mealworms is quite easy and recommended for the beginner. Simply take a flat plastic tub with a lid, fill it with an inch or so of oats or other grain, put in a slice of potato, carrot or other hard vegetable as a source of water, and then deposit your mealworms. Replace food as required throwing out any mouldy stuff.

The mealworms you get at the store are in their larval stage, and it may be a few months before they mature into beetles, so be patient. 100 mealworm larvae is a good colony start if you are not going to be eating them very often. If you wish to make insect protein a regular part of your diet, you can obtain mealworms in bulk from reptile food supply companies and start a large colony (5000 or more is the way to start in this case).

Crickets
Crickets are quite easy to raise and prepare, and the main problem is making sure that they don’t escape. Crickets can be kept in any fairly large container with high sides and a tight fitting lid. An aquarium is a good choice. Put a couple inches of potting soil on the bottom of the container.

This will be where the crickets deposit their eggs. Put several egg cartons in the aquarium for the crickets to roost on. Then, place a small container of grains and vegetable scraps in for food, and a container of moist cotton balls for water. Add 50-100 crickets. Mist the potting soil lightly every few days, and make sure that the crickets always have fresh food. You can probably start harvesting the crickets within a few months.

Be careful though as crickets are escape artists. be sure the lid is on tight and secure. escaped crickets may start infesting your house if they get out and you do not notice.

Slug and Snail Cleansing
Basically pulling slugs, snails and bugs from the wild requires us to cleanse them by empting what is in their stomachs before we can consume them. There are a couple of ways to do cleanse them. The easiest is to simply store them in a wooden box without food for a few days. Bugs will then be ready for processing. In the case of slugs and snails we also want to remove the slime from them as part of the cleansing process. Wash them well with a hose in the box. Repeat for three days in total then leave them to dry for three days then they are ready for processing. With slugs and snails you may want to feed them something like dill to improve the flavour.

If you are eating snails that have not been cleansed. Then you need to purge them yourself. It is as messy as it sounds. You have to wash the slugs and snails, put them in salt, which causes them to foam, leave for a while, rinse the slime and stomach contents away and then boil them. Obviously you don’t get the time to flavour them then. Some people remove the last third of the slug or snail as this contains its digestive organs just to be safe.

Slug and Snail Preparation
Slugs and Snails are washed and then put in a pot of boiling water where they are boiled for ten minutes. The snails are then removed from their shells. At this point they are ready for use. Use in whatever recipes you fancy at that point.

A Snail Recipe
There are several recipes for slugs and snails more than I would have though possible. Here is one for snails;

escargots au beurre à l’ail

  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) parsley, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 teaspoon cognac
  • dash nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons (90 grams) butter, softened
  • 12 escargots de Bourgogne

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Pound parsley, shallot and garlic in a mortar into a paste. Combine with salt, pepper, wine, cognac, and nutmeg. Combine with butter. Alternately, place parsley, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, wine, cognac, and nutmeg in the bowl of a mini-food processor and process until minced. Add butter and process to combine.

Arrange snails in individual wells of escargot plates. Top each with 1/12 of the escargot butter. Bake for 9 minutes, or until snails are warm.

Yield: 2 servings.

Source: Jean-Pierre Silva, Hostellerie du Vieux Moulin, Bouilland, France, 1997.

Bug Cleaning
Bugs are easier to cleanse from the wild. Simply keep in a box for two days, wash and they are ready for use. Bugs don’t really need preparation for cooking. Just process them as per the recipe.

A Bug Recipe
Again there are plenty of recipes out there for different types of bugs. Here is one;

Mealworm Fried Rice

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ C water
  • ¼ C chopped onions
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 C minute rice
  • 1 C cooked mealworms

Scramble egg in a saucepan, stirring to break egg into pieces. Add water, soy sauce, garlic and onions. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice and mealworms. Cover; remove from heat and let stand five minutes.

More recipes for Slugs, snails and bugs can be found here on the recipes page.

Conclusion
Be realistic, slugs, snails and bugs are not going to be your first choice of food but they are readily available and properly prepared will do you no harm. You should consider these as an alternative food source. Why don’t you try them and see what you think? You never know, soon you may have no choice and trying it out beforehand is always a good decision. Millions of people eat them already and there are farms out there to cater for them. This is a vast untapped food source in the West although snails are eaten a lot in France and, although uncommon, people eat them here and bug eating was even on the agenda in Victorian times so it is nothing new.

Further reading
This article just touches on the subject and there is a lot more information out there.
Here are a few websites;

Some books on the subject;

8 comments to Slugs, snails and bugs, definitely not puppy dog tails

  • Hi great blog, keep it up!, re- bugs, well I`d eat snails no prob, slugs I`d feed to my two hens or use as fishing bait.

  • Skean Dhude

    Hi Stan,

    Welcome and thanks for that.

    That is a good source of food for them. Better than me eating them. I’ve read an article on producing flies for feeding chickens but slugs are probably easier to keep for us.

  • Luddite

    I’ve eaten earthworms, although I was too young to remember the taste! 🙂 Apparently, I was so partial to them my mother took me to the GP. I had a look in my compost dalek today, there are so many earthworms in there, the compost was heaving. It could be a good time to pull out a few, purge them and see if I still like the taste.

    Snails – no problem, I call them wall fruit. They’re so numerous round here, one morning I picked up 53 brown snails and about a dozen green/black stripey ones from the patio and garage wall. There were just as many the following day. We have toads, slow worms and thrushes competing for them, though.

  • Skean Dhude

    Well your childhood experience may very well be one of your future food sources.

    I should have put earthworms in the article. I was too busy mentioning slugs to think about them but they too have everything you need and can’t run too fast either. An earthworm farm is also a viable idea. I’ll add it to the projects list I’m building now.

    It seems to me you are well past the yuck factor. Must be your childhood experiences that have made you immune.

  • Luddite

    Skean Dhude, my childhood experiences were, shall we say ‘difficult’ with both my parents being alcoholic, and my mother would often forget to feed us. You’d be amazed what you consider food when you’re that hungry. I’ve eaten out of bins, I’ve eaten apple cores and orange peel. I learnt, at the age of twelve, to never risk eating something when you don’t know it’s safe – I ate Laburnum seeds and nearly died. They taste like strongly-flavoured peas, in case you were wondering. 😀

    After that, I used the library to find out about wild foods, and I started hiding some food in my bedroom to feed my brothers when food was otherwise unavailable.

    The reason I started prepping was that having enough food makes me feel more secure, except that 40 years ago, it was called having a well-stocked pantry.

    The awful experiences of my childhood may well be the reason I survive in the future.

  • Skean Dhude

    Luddite,

    Sorry to hear about that. Life isn’t easy for all of us even in the ‘civilised’ western worlds.

    Learning the hard way does stand you in good stead. Like your body hoards fat when it can you learn to ensure that you know where your next meal, or three, are coming from.

    My parents were the opposite they looked after us and brought us up as best they could. We always had a well stocked pantry and my mum ensured that keeping it so was a top priority. It rubbed off on me, but not my brother, and I always make sure that the first thing stocked up is food before anything else.

    Although I wouldn’t know what I could eat from foraging I have a book to help. Pity I am pathetic at identifying the plants from the drawings.

  • Kenneth Eames

    SD, There is a wonderful book by a man in America. It is called ‘Botany in a Day’ by Thomas J. Elpel. It teaches Botany by plant families. I am learning to identify plants from it. There is also a website called Botany Everyday which works with the book. I am sure it will aid you and other members in their studies. A year or more ago Amazon had it on their site. Kenneth Eames.

  • Skean Dhude

    I’ll check up on this book. It may be what I’m looking for.

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