Until recently, snails were seen as pests and many cringed at their sight. Well, the slippery creatures have come out of their shells and are literally crawling into your plate as an irresistible delicacy, to your farm as fertiliser and to your skin as lotion.
All these came alive at the Central Kenya ASK show this week where show-goers were able to sample the products from snails at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology’s (JKUAT) stand.
“Snails possess anticancer properties and boost the immune system due to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects,” noted Dr Paul Kinoti, a food technologist from JKUAT as he sampled a variety of dishes made from snails.
He observed that the creatures are important for dietary balance since they contain 15 per cent proteins, 2.4 per cent fat and 80 per cent water.
According to Kinoti, the nutritional value of snails surpasses that of any other animal since they contain fatty acids, calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium and are a rich source of vitamins E, A, K and B12.
“Snails are very rich in low-calorie protein, compared to other meats. The protein they provide is important for building and repairing muscles,” he said.
The food technologist observed that eating snails could be part of a solution to curb iron deficiency and malnutrition among children and lifestyle diseases, which have become prevalent.
“Lack of iron will lead to extreme fatigue and anaemia but the iron element found in snails is essential for building red blood cells and carrying energy around the body,” he said.
Selenium from snails is vital for the human body since it keeps the heartbeat regular, boosts the immune system and protects cells against damage, he opined.
The university is breeding the Giant African Land Snail, which is commonly found on farms across East Africa.
PERMIT FROM KWS
To farm the snail, one must make wooden boxes, the preferred house, and feed them on cabbages and fruit pieces, particularly watermelons.
For a farmer to start rearing the snails, they need a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service and they should ensure that the boxes have enough space for each of the snails to avoid overcrowding.
“Snails eggs hatch after two weeks to a month, after which the young ones develop a soft shell,” he explained, adding that it takes up to 14 months for them to fully mature depending on the weather.
Besides meat, Dr Kinoti said he has also managed to extract a skin cream from snails that is suitable for people suffering from rashes, acne and sunburns.
He noted that it takes about five minutes to cook snails, which can be prepared differently depending on one’s culinary skills.
“One only needs to gently boil them before deshelling and then opening to remove the excretes and enjoy them with their favourite carbohydrates and vegetables,” he said.
And that is not all, he also makes organic fertiliser and their shells are used as ornaments or house decorations.
To make 50 grammes of bio-snail cream, one requires 100 snails. The process involves exerting pressure on the snails in a confinement to extract the slime that is then laced with perfume to meet the cosmetic benefit.
“Through snails, we are tapping opportunities available in the ecosystem by making use of the available resources to add value to our diets,” he said.
Dr Kinoti said the excretes from the snail – which remain after cutting the meat slices – are used to make fertilisers.
“The excretes are rich in nitrogen. One then crushes the shells, which are rich in calcium, and then mixes the two to end up with a quality organic fertiliser,” he said.