While I was in Thuir, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, I visited a snail farm: not something I really had planned on doing, but thought it would be interesting and oh so, French.
The reception area was a small trailer, with regional products displayed for purchase, where the owner cordially explained his business. It turned out that since the harvesting season is from March to mid-May, there wasn’t much to see other than empty crates and crinkled, Polaroid photos of the various stages of snail development.
I hadn’t really thought about how snails reproduce, albeit slowly, and learned that they lay eggs. I also learned that the soil in which they mature cannot include fertilizer, as it burns the snails eyes, and that it takes about 3 months to reach snail adulthood.
This farmer raises about 50,000 snails each season, first in indoor plastic crates as an incubator, then they are transferred to the outdoor soil. He said that generally, there is a 30% snail mortality rate (who knew?), and even higher with a too hot or too cold variation in temperatures. He showed enthusiasm and passion for his craft, even though there was an absence of les escargots à la catalan (recipe below).
Recipe credit: Symdicat Producteurs Pyrénées Orientales