Bitch on the Blog

February 26, 2010

No harvest

Filed under: Despair,Farming,Food,History,Philosophy — bitchontheblog @ 06:00
Tags: , , , ,

“You reap what you sow”.

Don’t believe it. Complete nonsense – why do you think gardeners and farmers are usually down in the mouth?

Go to Ireland and you will learn more about potato blight than you ever wished to know. Ask me about snails and I show you a mass murderer. In fact I have got it down to a fine art, and don’t say I am not kind: Beer traps work wonders – slugs and snails being attracted to yeast, then drowning themselves and MY sorrows. I console myself that they will have died a happy death.

Since research is in my blood (undiluted) I  just looked up snails in Larousse Gastronomique which is a doorstopper of a heavyweight of a book: The amount of preparation that needs to go into preparing a snail for human consumption makes you not so much wonder whether it’s worth it: It kills your appetite. It’s mainly to do with cleaning out their digestive tract by putting them on a ten day detox (also known as fasting/starvation diet). However “do not remove the liver and other inner organs which amount to a quarter of the weight of a snail and are the most delicious and nutritious part”.

Apart from setting beer traps the only other way to stay on top of the snail problem in your garden is to get up early (say 5 in the morning; dress code morning gown) when it’s still all damp and they are out there by their dozens. You pick them live and then hope that one of your visitors that day will take a bag off you. No joke.

Spring appears to be on its way considering that my thoughts are turning to terrestial gastropod molluscs.


PS For the historians amongst us: There was a bit of a loss of culinary interest in snails in the 17th century; revived by Talleyrand (!) who had them prepared, by Careme, for a dinner he gave for the Tsar of Russia.



  1. We don’t have snails here—too cold I think. But at my sister’s in San Diego (U.S.) I loved to stomp on them to hear them pop. That worked well for my sister. I’ll remember not to eat them.

    Comment by bikehikebabe — February 26, 2010 @ 15:45 | Reply

    • Bike Hike Babe, that’s awful. How could you be so cruel as to enjoy hearing them “pop”. Whenever I stand on a snail, by accident, I am mortified.

      To pull at your heart strings: Twice in my life I craved having pets (once when I was about four, the other when about ten). Both times I made do with what was to hand. And what was to hand were snails. I made them a lovely home, bribed both my grandmother and my mother to give me the outer leaves of any green salad they were preparing, I even named them. I’d watch them for hours, lovingly tending to them, observing their little horns increase in size, then at the slightest alarm retreat into their shells. The idyll would last – for a while. Then what disloyal bastards they turned out to be. You turn your back for five minutes, say, because you have to go to school or are called in for lunch – and what do you know: They have gone. Still, it put paid to notion that snails are slow; they aren’t.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — February 26, 2010 @ 16:24 | Reply

  2. I’ve had two pet spiders. One lived near the potty. When I went to sit there, he’d run behind the standing cabinet (not built-in). I put water & food there. He got used to me & didn’t run away anymore. Tom smashed him. Said he’d bite the grandchildren. Sooooo sad!

    The other one had a web under the bathroom mirror downstairs. He’d run behind the mirror when I arrived. I tried to make friends. I used a comb to push him out, & show him the water & food. I never saw him again so I guess I swished him. I felt bad for a long time.

    Comment by bikehikebabe — February 26, 2010 @ 17:17 | Reply

  3. Did you know that you can identify each species of snail by looking at its Radula (tongue to the un-initiated)? This means that it should be quite easy to work out past climates and environments by finding the radulas of dead snails.

    The snails round here try to get the better of me..they eat the labels off the containers of Slug and Snail bait. Yes I do hide it where other animals cannot find it. For many years we had no problems with snails until some idiot thought that they would feed and encourage the Urban Foxes. This meant the demise of our local population of hedgehogs.

    I used to keep wormeries and my eldest son loved woodlice.

    Regarding the culinary delights of molluscs (or other wise). I have never eaten land snails but do like winkles and cockles (whelks are too chewy for me).

    Comment by Magpie11 — February 26, 2010 @ 17:50 | Reply

    • Oh yes, I remember my “wormerie”. Soft dirt hill where the earthworms multiplied. Put them in the garden to loosen the dirt. That was fun!

      Comment by bikehikebabe — February 26, 2010 @ 18:10 | Reply

    • Magpie, no I didn’t know that. Thanks. The most unlikely things sometimes come in useful.

      Some fifteen years ago, looking out of the window at dawn, I saw my first suburban fox at the bottom of the garden (in a show down with the cat – I expected carnage before I had chance to spring to cat’s defence – though by the time I’d unlocked the back door it turned out more like a summit meeting of world leaders: nothing much had happened). Naturally, nobody believed me. So, there I was poised with camera next morning, same time, same place. Now foxes are a common sighting, and a sad road kill.

      I am very fond of hedgehogs (for many reasons, not just because they hoover up snails) and despite the fact that they tend to be flea ridden. However, I think the reason we see so few of them these days is that most gardeners are too tidy: No piles of neglected autumn leaves left, no forgotten wood at the bottom of the garden. So what’s a hedgehog to do for shelter? Other than emigrate. Same applies to frogs. Nurture a little shadow, a little damp underneath some trees and your prince will come, unless the cat gets there first. It’s the one time I go hopping mad when I am being given a gift of feline love in the shape of a screaming frog.

      You like winkles (they are in plentiful supply here at the Dorset coast). Do you still use your grandmother’s hair pin to pick them out of their shell?


      Comment by bitchontheblog — February 27, 2010 @ 19:47 | Reply

  4. Late fall 2008, I was scooping out the dirt from the driveway drain. There in the dirt was a stiff lizard. I put warm water on him & he got flexible & wriggled. Snakelady said I shouldn’t have done that, but to bring him over & she’d keep him for the winter. She has 50 or so snakes.

    She changed her mind; said he’d be O.K. & let him go bury himself. He wasn’t around this past spring/summer. He was bigger than the others I saw. Sob! or 😦

    Comment by bikehikebabe — February 27, 2010 @ 20:44 | Reply

    • Well, Bike Hike Babe, first you feed spiders in your loo, now you water lizzards. No wonder he moved on. How does your snake lady keep her 50 snakes fed? As a form of pest control possibly slightly more efficient than your average house cat – cats don’t mouse as they used to in the olden days. They just sit in front of their food bowl expecting room service. I suppose mice have gone the way of hedgehogs – looking for pastures more convivial than your average town house.

      And just to ensure we all have lovely dreams tonight: Apparently we are never further away from a rat than roughly six metres. I don’t actually believe that unless you live either in New York or are homeless and forced to overnight in a sewer.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — February 28, 2010 @ 01:05 | Reply

  5. “How does your snake lady keep her 50 snakes fed?”, you ask. At great expense. Her freezer if full of unborn “pinkies”–mice- which she orders. No room for fruit from all her trees. I get what I can use of that.

    She rescues unwanted or injured snakes. Someone tries to kill a snake which doesn’t die; has a change of heart & takes it to her. She spends 100s of $$$ on a snake’s health, when she knows more about any snake than the vet. A yellow snake (his brother wasn’t yellow) had a liver problem. She hand fed his mouth & when he died a year later, she moaned his death like her own child.

    Crazy? maybe but fascinating. I love her.

    Comment by bikehikebabe — February 28, 2010 @ 01:22 | Reply

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