You've picked them off your plants, drowned them in beer and dosed them with salt, but slugs still turn your garden into their own personal salad bar. Instead of fighting these pests, turn the tide on them. Because garden slugs are closely related to the snails used in escargot, they can be eaten like the French delicacy. Before you dive into a platter of slugs, your garden foes will need some special preparation to make them safe.
Although the best time to find slugs in the garden is at night, you can hunt for slugs any time if you know where to look. Because they don't like the sun, most slugs will be found in moist, shady spots under leaves or under objects such as flower pots, logs or rocks. Pick slugs that are at least an inch long. As you hunt, toss your victims into a moist cloth sack. Once you have the amount of slugs you want, take them inside for purging. To avoid consuming toxins, your slugs should be taken from a garden that uses no poisons -- including herbicides.
Time to Purge
Purging rids your slugs of any poisons or bitter flavors. To purge your slugs, spread a 1/2-inch layer of cornmeal in a wide plastic, ceramic or glass container. Moisten the cornmeal with water and then place your slugs on the cornmeal. To keep your snacks from escaping, use a rubber band or twine to tie a layer of cheesecloth over the container. Keep the container in a cool, dark place. Scoop out the old cornmeal and place a fresh layer of moist cornmeal in the container after two days and then allow them to feast on the new cornmeal for another 24 hours. Watch for slugs that aren't climbing up the sides of the container as this is a sign that they may not be well and shouldn't be eaten. Throw out these immobile slugs.
Preparing Your Escargot
After your slugs have purged for three days, pluck them out and rinse them. Blanch the slugs by dropping them into a pot of boiling water and letting them simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the slugs in a colander and rinse them in cold water at least three times. After being blanched, prepare the slugs as you would escargot by sauteing them in white wine and your choice of herbs and spices. In the gourmet section of your grocery store, you can find escargot shells in which to place the cooked slugs. Once in the shell, give each slug a generous treatment of butter and garlic with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. The escargot are then roasted for seven to 10 minutes before serving. Serve your garden-variety escargot with additional garlic butter.
Walk on the Cautious Side
Although you can eat properly prepared garden slugs, slugs that aren't fully processed can make you sick. Never eat garden slugs raw. Slugs aren't picky about where they roam, meaning your snack could have wandered over animal feces, poisons and harmful bacteria. Thorough preparation and cooking will reduce your chance of getting sick from whatever your slugs have encountered. If you have shellfish allergies, escargot -- whether from your garden or the bistro -- can trigger those allergies.
- The Oregonian; Garden Slugs - Slimy Pests or Delicious Escargot, Vern Nelson
- New York Times: Man’s Serious Illness Shows the Danger of Daring to Eat a Garden-Variety Slug
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images