Sunday, April 29, 2012

We call ‘em snails, in France they are « escargots »

Add to Google Reader or HomepageOn Saturday, several of the nearby counties held “de ferme en ferme” (from farm to farm) – a day where local producers opened their farms for visits and tastings. Farmers who grow, or make, everything from almonds to wine offered tours and tastings. There were vegetable farmers, honey makers, olive oil presses, goat cheese makers, rabbit producers, candy makers and much more. (www.defermeenferme.com)

Five of us loaded into Jane’s car and headed north to visit some of the points listed on the map. Our first destination: a snail farm. Les escargots de l’enclave – that should translate to something like the snails from the Enclave of the Pope. In the 1300s, Pope John XXII bought a region including four villages north of here because he liked the wine they grew there. But that is another story.

At Les Escargots de l’Enclave (http://lesescargotsdelenclave.over-blog.com/), we got to see how they raise snails. First, they buy the small snails from another farm in Normandy. Mr. Clavel held up a small wooden container – like you might get when you buy a small round of Brie or Camembert – and explained that the box held over 2,000 baby snails. (I read that snail eggs don’t hatch. They develop and become snail shells.)


picture from lesescargotsdelenclave.over-blog.com

Mr. Clavel said that the snails live in a fenced and protected area – the fencing is as much to keep the snails in the farm area as to keep the predators out. Predators include a variety of birds, fox and wild boars, but he quickly added that the greatest predator is the summer heat of Provence. They grow two varieties of snails: le gros gris and le petit gris (the big and little grays). After about four months of living in the grassy farm, the snails are harvested and sold. There are over 200 snail farms in France.


 The snails live under the wooden lean-tos eating the grass and attaching to the wood at night.

  
A tray of “Gros Gris” snails.

I have always enjoyed snails cooked with garlic-parsley butter (and I thank my sister Sue for introducing us to them!) The farmer talked about grilling them and eating them with a pepper (piquante) sauce which I may have to try – though it is tough to top anything with garlic butter.

Bon appetit!   

8 comments:

  1. I wish I could have done this tour with you. I will definitely save the link so we can plan to do this someday. We went to the wine festival at Vinosobres in March and I met a lady there who "raises" escargots and she invited us to come and visit her farm which we intend to do next time we are in Sablet. We serve a fabulous preparation of escargots on our Bistro menu.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! It was fun and we ended our tour with lunch at les Troubadors in Visan. (I am guessing that you already know this restaurant.)

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  2. This post definitely can be among those that brings to mind my one of my father's favorite sayings, "You learn something new every day if you hang around the right people." I have wondered for years where the snails came from. Now, bring on the garlic butter. But hey! I'm game to try the pepper sauce.

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  3. This post is fascinating but leaves me with questions. Now about this fenced area... Cant they just scale the wall and climb over? Are there snail wranglers.. snail boys? Do they take long to grow to the edible size? How exactly are baby snails made? Does the snail poke have to buy more babies or once the farm has them, do they procreate? Why are snails on menus with fish? I see no water in this story? I think I thought they were shell fish. I'm just realizing I know nothing about snails. Thank you for enlightening me.

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    1. The fence is about 30 inches high with several features: 1. the bottom of the fence is buried so there is no escape UNDER the fence. 2. about half way up the fence, a piece - a flange drops down about 3 inches so that the snails can't climb out. 3. For the persistent snails, IF they make it past the first flange, there is a section of the fence that is electrified to deter passage. 4. At the top of the fence, it is bent back toward the ground thus creating a second flange for any snails smart enough to figure out how to shut off the electricity to get to the top of the fence.

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  4. Do the snails just live on the ground shaded by the boards?

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    1. The snails crawl around eating the grass and other herbs. The fields are watered every day to keep the grass growing and the ground moist.

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  5. Thank you. I've applied for continuing education credits for this post. Two more questions from readers and a test and they'll make the award.

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