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Roasted snail shells have been found in archaeological excavations, an indication that snails have been eaten since prehistoric times.

In ancient Rome, snails were fattened up in "cochlear" gardens before they were eaten. "A Virginia Farmer" described keeping snails in a cool, moist and shady environment, supplying artificial dew if necessary, containing them on an "island" surrounded by water to prevent escape, supplying vegetation as feed, and fattening them on corn meal. Pliny described the snail garden of Fulvius Hirpinus 2,000 years ago as having separate sections for different species of snails. Hirpinus allegedly fed his snails on meal and wine. But note, stale beer placed in a shallow dish is a way of killing them. Snails are attracted to the yeast in beer and will crawl into the dish and drown.

The Romans selected the best snails for breeding. "Wall fish" were often eaten in Britain, but were never as popular as on the continent. There, people often ate snails during Lent, and in a few places, they consumed large quantities of snails at Mardi Gras or Carnival, as a foretaste of Lent.

According to some sources, the French imported brown garden snails to California in the 1850s, raising them as the delicacy escargot. Other sources claim that Italian immigrants were the first to bring the snail to the United States.