Apart from being relished as gourmet food, several species of land snails provide an easily harvested source of protein to many people in poor communities around the world. Many land snails are valuable because they can feed on a wide range of agricultural wastes such as shed leaves in banana plantations. In some countries Giant African Land Snails are produced commercially for food. Land snails, freshwater snails and sea snails are all eaten in a number of countries (principally Spain, Philippines, Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, France, Sicily, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cyprus, Ghana, Malta, Terai of Nepal, several regions of India, southwestern China and parts of the U.S.A.). In certain parts of the world snails are fried. For example, in Bali they are fried as satay, a dish known as sate kakul. The eggs of certain snail species are eaten in a fashion similar to the way caviar is eaten.
Apart from snails and slugs appearing in cuisine as luxuries, they have occasionally been used as famine food in historical times. Variants of the following event have occurred in Europe from time to time:
- In a popular publication quoted below occurs the following notice of a well-known land mollusk, in connection with a traditionary story of the plague, which has long had general currency in Scotland: ‘In the woodlands, the more formidable black nude slug, the Anon or Limax den, will also be often encountered. It is a huge voracious creature, herbivorous, feeding, to Barbara’s astonishment, on tender plants; fruits, as strawberries, apples; and even turnips and mushrooms; appearing morning and evening, or after rain; suffering severely in its concealment in long droughts, and remaining torpid in winter. The gray field slug (Limax agrestis) is actually recommended to be swallowed by consumptive patients! In the town of Dundee there exists a strange traditionary story of the plague, connected with the conversion, from dire necessity of the Arionaten, or black slug, to a use similar to that which the luxurious Romans are said to have made of the great apple-snail. Two young and blooming maidens lived together at that dread time, like Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, in a remote cottage on the steep (indeed almost perpendicular) ascent of the Bonnetmaker’s Hill. Deprived of friends or support by the pestilence that walked at noonday, they still retained their good looks and healthful aspect, even when the famine had succeeded to the plague. The jaundiced eyes of the famine-wasted wretches around them were instantly turned towards the poor girls, who appeared to thrive so well whilst others were famishing. They were unhesitatingly accused of witchcraft, and had nearly fallen a prey to that terrible charge; for betwixt themselves they had sworn never to tell in words by what means they were supported, ashamed as they felt of the resource to which they had been driven; and resolved, if possible, to escape the anticipated derision of their neighbours on its disclosure. It was only when about to be dragged before their stern inquisitors, that one of the girls, drawing aside the covering of a great barrel which stood in a corner of their domicile, discovered, without violating her oath, that the youthful pair had been driven to the desperate necessity of collecting and preserving for food large quantities of these Limacinoe, which they ultimately acknowledged to have proved to them generous and even agreeable sustenance. To the credit of the times of George Wishart—a glimpse of pre-reforming enlightenment—the explanation sufficed; the young women escaped with their lives, and were even applauded for their prudence