Heliciculture/List of Edible Snails

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Edible land snails range in size from about one millimeter long to the giant African snails, which occasionally grow up to 312mm (1 foot) in length. "Escargot" most commonly refers to either Helix aspersa or to Helix pomatia, although other varieties of snails are eaten. Achatina fulica, a giant African snail, is sliced and canned and passed off on some consumers as escargot. Terms such as "garden snail" or "common brown garden snail" are rather meaningless since they refer to so many types of snails, but they sometimes mean H. aspersa.

  • Helix aspersa Muller is also known as the French "petit gris," "small grey snail," the "escargot chagrine," or "La Zigrinata." The shell of a mature adult has four to five whorls and measures 30 to 45mm across. It is native to the shores of the Mediterranean and up the coast of Spain and France. It is found on many British Isles, where the Romans introduced it in the first century A.D. (Some references say it dates to the Early Bronze Age.) In the early 1800's the French brought it into California where it has become a serious pest. These snails are now common throughout the U.S. It was introduced into several Eastern and Gulf states even before 1850 and, later introduced into other countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, and Argentina. H. aspersa has a life span of 2 to 5 years. This species is more adaptable to different climates and conditions than many snails, and is found in woods, fields, sand dunes, and gardens. This adaptability not only increases H. aspersa's range, but it also makes farming H. aspersa easier and less risky.
  • Helix pomatia Linne measures about 45mm across the shell. It also is called the "Roman snail," "apple snail," "lunar," "La Vignaiola," the German "Weinbergschnecke," the French "escargot de Bourgogne" or "Burgundy snail," or "gros blanc." Native over a large part of Europe, it lives in wooded mountains and valleys up to 2,000 meters (6,000 feet) altitude and in vineyards and gardens. The Romans may have introduced it into Britain. Immigrants introduced it into the U.S. in Michigan and Wisconsin. Many prefer H. pomatia to H. aspersa for its flavor and its larger size, as the "escargot par excellence."
  • Otala lactea or Helix lactea is sometimes called the "vineyard snail," "milk snail," or "Spanish snail." The shell is white with reddish brown spiral bands and measures about 26 to 35mm in diameter. Many think it tastes better than H. aspersa.
  • Iberus alonensis--the Spanish "cabretes" or "xona fina"--measures about 30mm across the shell.
  • Cepaea nemoralis--Helix nemoralis, the "wood snail," or the Spanish "vaqueta,"-- measures about 25mm across the shell. It inhabits Central Europe and was introduced into and inhabits many U.S. states, from Massachusetts to California and from Tennessee to Canada. Its habitat ranges widely from woods to dunes. It mainly eats dead plant material, but it likes nettles and buttercups and will eat dead worms and dead snails.
  • Cepaea hortensis, or Helix hortensis, the "garden snail," measures about 20mm across the shell and has distinct dark stripes. It is native to central and northern Europe. Introduced into Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire in colonial times, it never became established in these states. Its habitat varies like C. nemoralis, but C. hortensis is found in colder and wetter places than nemoralis. Their smaller size and some people's opinion that snails with striped shells do not taste as good make hortensis and nemoralis less popular.
  • Otala punctata or Archelix punctata, called "vaqueta" in some parts of Spain, measures about 35mm across the shell.
  • Otala vermiculata--also called Eobania v. or Helix v., the "vinyala," "mongeta," or "xona"--measures about 25mm. It is found in Mediterranean countries and was introduced into Louisiana and Texas.
  • Helix lucorum, sometimes called "escargo turc," measures about 45mm across the shell. It is found in central Italy and from Yugoslavia through the Crimea to Turkey and around the Black Sea.
  • Helix adanensis comes from around Turkey.
  • Helix aperta measures about 25mm. Its meat is highly prized. It is native to France, Italy, and Mediterranean countries and has become established in California and Louisiana. Sometimes known as the "burrowing snail," it is found above ground only during rainy weather. In hot, dry weather, it burrows three to six inches into the ground and becomes dormant until rain softens the soil.
  • Theba pisana--also called the "banded snail"or the "cargol avellanenc"--measures about 20mm and lives on dry, exposed sites, usually near the sea. Native to Sicily, it has been spread to several European countries, including England. This snail is a serious garden pest and is the "white snail" that California once eradicated by using flamethrowers to burn off whole areas. In large numbers, up to 3,000 snails per tree, it can ravage a garden in 24 hours and a citrus or other crop in a couple of nights.
  • Sphincterochila candidisima or Leucochroa candidisima, the "cargol mongeta," or "cargol jueu" measures about 20mm.
  • Achatina fulica, one of several giant African snails, grows up to 326mm (one foot) long. Its origin is South of the Sahara in East Africa. This snail was purposely introduced into India in 1847. There was an unsuccessful attempt to establish it in Japan in 1925. It has been purposely and accidentally transported to other Pacific locations and was inadvertently released in California after World War II, in Hawaii, and later in North Miami Florida in the 1970's. In many places, it is a serious agricultural pest that causes considerable crop damage. Also, due to its large size, its slime and fecal material create a nuisance as does the odor that occurs when something like poison bait causes large numbers to die. The U.S. has made considerable effort to eradicate Achatina. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bans the importation of, and it is illegal to possess, live giant African snails.

"There is no such thing as the giant African or West African snail since there are many genera containing numerous species. . . . For instance, the giant snail in Ghana is taken to mean Achatina Achatina (Linne), but in Nigeria this might refer to Arachachatina Marginata (Swainson), and in East Africa to Achatina fulica Bodich. There are, therefore, several giant land snails in Africa, and not just one species." (3)