MANY Africans will tell you that it’s only “the French who eat snails”. Wrong. Even Africans do.
The giant African land snails or “African tiger snail”, are illegal to rear in many developed countries as they are considered to be a devastatingly invasive species.
However, to those who eat them, they are equally delicious, cooked in a tasty garlic parsley butter, or in a soup.
The West African wet season of April to August is when snails come out of their otherwise dormant state to breed, which gifts locals opportunities to gather and sell them in the markets.
If not sold, they are boiled by villages in a soup. The name for the snails and cooking preparation will vary from village to village. It is said the common name is “Congo meat”.
Not surprisingly, Nigerians are taking advantage of the market for the little creature to earn fill their wallets.
These Achatina Achatina snails (the Latin name for them) also be pets for some, popular in that regard because they require very little maintenance especially from a cost point of view. They only require loving time and care.
They can be up to 11-12 inches long, and live up to 10 years. They are prolific breeders laying up to 200-400 eggs in a batch, three to four times a year thus giving potentially at least one million snails in a year to farmer with 100 of them worth $32,000 (5m Nigerian Naira) a year.
In Nigeria some innovative businessmen are making their way out of poverty by farming snails and exporting them through out Europe and USA. Many are hiding their secret methods of farming the little critters, thus ensuring it remains a lucrative business for the few of them who are in it.
There are many things to be said for snails. These two, apart from the money, make them worthwhile:
· Every part of a snail is of fundamental use in food, Pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing and fishing industries.
· No odor, no noise and no irritation.
· An average snail is comprised of 80% of water, 15% of protein, and 2.4 % of fat - primarily unsaturated fats (the healthy kind). A snail contains essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, selenium, and magnesium.
· They are also a rich source of many essential vitamins they are loaded with Vitamins A, E, K and B12 to mention a few. Snails are an ideal weight-watchers favorite food.
It is reported that out side of this wet season the supply of snail meat is other wise rare through out West Africa.
The snail season, so to speak, has now come to the end…until next year.