Heliculture is not exactly on everyone’s mind, nor is the product of this field, escargot snails, on everyone’s plate. This French delicacy is served at fine restaurants the world over. The new company, EscarGrow Farms of Eureka, California, is helping to supply high-quality snails and snail caviar for those of us brave enough to indulge.
Owner and snail farmer Charity Anais West worked in France, in the wine industry for a time, and became enamored of both French wine and French snails. The escargot she had back in the USA was a far cry from the fresh snails served in France. So, after much research and preparation, she decided to start her own snail farm.
Charity works with the Petit Gris or “little gray” snails. You might also find these snails in your garden munching on your plants! Her first snails actually came from her mother’s garden; her snails now are foraged from all over the city. She raises them in a hoop house.
The snails take about a year to reach market size, and Anais West raises several thousand snails at a time. She is experimenting with different feed for the snails. So far, they have enjoyed fresh organic greens and fruit, especially cucumbers, as well as organic cornmeal, wheat bran and crushed oyster shells to help strengthen their own shells.
Snails are sold by the pound, and only in California, due to invasive species restrictions on shipping out of state. Snail eggs, or caviar, is also gaining in popularity in high-end California restaurants. Anais West and her snails get rave reviews from area chefs about the excellent flavor of her snails and caviar.
Business is slow, but keeping snails is space-efficient and it’s a rewarding pursuit!