They Are Not Escargot: Do Not Eat Garden Slugs

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Can you safely eat garden slugs in the same way as escargot? They are very similar in appearance save for the lack of a hard shell, but the answer really comes as a surprise...

Escargot is a dish of cooked land snails typically served as an appetizer and considered to be a delicacy. Served in many French restaurants and enjoyed by epicurean palates around the world, escargot is a popular favorite with fanciers of fine foods. Expertly prepared and their meat stuffed back into their shells, escargot is offered up on a platter to discerning diners. It may well be an acquired taste. I have never tried escargot personally but am curious to give it a go someday. Escargot is known to be totally safe if when prepared by culinary experts familiar with the gastropod. Not the least of which, there are edible and inedible varieties of escargot. Of the edible varieties of all escargot, the questionable contents of their stomachs much be removed prior to cooking.

Purging, fasting and replacement of wholesome greens as a food of edible escargot snails for several days prior to preparation are required. One would not think to do such with a garden-caught slug, whose stomach contents likely contain decayed matter such as leaves, garbage carrion (decaying meat) and would be host to a potent load of viruses, bacteria and parasites in its own right.

Are Garden Slugs Edible?

The question comes up occasionally about garden slugs; are they edible? Certainly not the raw ones from what we know slugs and snails as a whole typically consume.

Back when I raised reptiles, live wild-caught garden slugs made a good snack from my cold-blooded pets. Reptiles would have access to slugs and snails in the wild, and equally noted that reptiles are often host to a variety of pathogens such as salmonella, and parasites such as pinworms. Gut load parasites in reptiles are kept in natural balances but in warm-blooded animals, sickness usually results from the accidental or misguided ingesting of items that contains these unfamiliar parasites.

a brown banana slug crawling over a thick branch

(image source)

Snails and slugs are hosts to certain parasites known to cause meningitis. One does not even have to actually eat the snail or slug to ingest the parasites. The parasites can be deposited by the gastropod in their slime trail and cases of meningitis in humans have been traced to having eaten lettuce and other garden vegetables that were improperly washed. The slime trail of a snail or slug on the vegetable being the vector of the disease.

The worm-like parasites transmitted by ingestion of a slug are of the type typically found in diseased rat lungs but carried as larvae in some snails and slugs. Rats and mice being creatures that regularly prey upon these gastropods in the wild; they are carriers of both parasites and bacteria that can lead to meningitis.

What is Meningitis? Do Garden Slugs Have Meningitis?

Meningitis is a disease of the spinal fluids and fluid that surrounds the brain. This infection of the clear fluids in and around the spinal cord and brain can cause the brain to swell. Surgeons can treat the patient by draining excess fluids from the skull, and through the use of antibiotics. Viral meningitis is less severe and typically resolves without intervention but bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage that includes hearing loss, learning disability and damage of brain material itself.

Meningitis can be contagious, spread by respiratory or oral secretions but it is not nearly as contagious as the common cold or influenza. It is repeated exposure incidents such as health care workers, or couples in a relationship whereby one person is inflicted and passes the disease along to his or her partner whereby transmission becomes more likely.

In cases of diagnosed meningitis where hospital treatment and confinement is required, it can take several weeks to get healthy and months before a full recovery is realized. -This is hardly worth the risk of consuming a local gastropod for any epicurean experiment.

If you want escargot, trust a culinary chef not your luck or intuition about wild foods in nature. Don't eat wild garden slugs.

16 comments

ryan Sampson
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sam holliday
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Dr. David Warmflash
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Teresa Schultz
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