A young Scottish pioneer has opened the country’s first commercial snail farm, in his parent’s back garden.
Malcolm Stewart, a 17-year-old from Leith, is successfully breeding and nurturing common garden snails as escargot for some of Edinburgh’s finest restaurants, and the orders are filling fast.
Malcolm said: “The snails come from a designated plot in my dad’s back yard before they are treated, cleansed and put into forced hibernation in the kitchen fridge.”
The slimy creatures have proved a hit with the town’s restaurants and Malcolm claims he cannot keep up with the demand for around 300 snails every month.
“I’m now earning an income for when I start studying for my business degree next year, selling fresh and delectable home grown produce to top-notch restaurants.”
The bourgeoning sales of the helix aspersa and pomatia variety are not exclusive to restaurants with a Gallic flair, but include the city’s cafés and bistros from Morningside Road to Leith Walk.
Gerry King, head chef at the Chez la Mère restaurant on Haddington Road, Musselburgh said: “We bought our first batch of 160 snails last week. It’s been popular so far, although, customers are generally taken aback by the sight of the very familiar snails.”
He added: “Why would we want snails that have been frozen and shipped from the continent? The snails are fresh, of supreme quality due to their diet and ultimately delicious.”
The snails are fed on a diet of dried food, chalk to make their shells strong and fresh leafy vegetables.
Malcolm said: “I’ll admit to becoming quite attached to them. They are really quite friendly and somewhat curious creatures. They don’t smell, make any noise or mess. They’d make perfect pets.”
The snails, which are usually shipped from farms in Eastern Europe, are in short supply with the French alone consuming 700 million tonnes each year.
A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said that Malcolm’s business, which is yet to be named, had “scope for further development and enlargement”.
“During the recession, it has become apparent that individuals look to exploit market gaps. In this case, we have witnessed the creation of Scotland’s first snail farm and it looks to be doing very well.”
Malcolm added: “As long as the Scottish winter isn’t too bitter for the snails, then I’ll remain confident for the future.”
For recipes on cooking escargot visit the BBC food website.