If You Can't Beat 'Em . . . Eat 'Em

There is one more method of controlling snails--eating them.

Brown garden snails were introduced to California in the 1850s by European settlers who thought they'd be a food source. When the effort was less successful than they had expected, the idea was largely dropped. No longer cultivated as food crops, the snails went wild, joining the less gregarious native species of snails.

Some people still appreciate snails baked in butter, garlic and other spices. Although snails here are smaller than the snails used by the French, they can still be prepared for the table.

According to John Cavashema, an environmental horticulturist with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Irvine, some people gather them by the thousands and sell them to restaurants.

But there are a couple crucial steps that must be taken before the snails are ready to eat. First, be sure the snails haven't been exposed to any toxic baits. Next, the snails should be confined and fed cornmeal for several days to cleanse their systems of grit and other undesirable matter.

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