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. (

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 (, 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

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!