Things to do in Lisbon: Visit a Snail Farm
The technical name is heliciculture, but in practice it is the production of snails. The summery snack of many Portuguese can be an interesting business, especially the “caracoleta”, whose size allows year-round income and with a price that compensates for its captive exploitation.
The Helix aspersa maxima are hermaphrodites, so it is here that the question of stiffness of the shell is posed. Some protections are broken and new animals are lost. The moments occur from January to March and from August to September.
Each caracoleta puts about 100 eggs, although the number can oscillate between 80 and 150. The reproductive process is violent, usually it happens only once in the life, cases in which it is verified a second time.
Molluscs only breed once. Since it is a violent process, the caracoletas are exhausted and may even die. The problem is that the reproduction is very exhausting, it lasts about 12 hours, in which the caracoletas are clinging to one another.
The spawning takes place ten days later and each animal generates about 100 eggs. In the case of hermaphrodites, one assumes the role of the male. But this is not always the case, it is common for both of them to undo, doubling their posture.
Copulation forces a courtship. The “caracoletas” do not join the first partner they meet. The search is hypothetically based on the calcium in the shell. Chosen, stuck, so that “no one” separates them.
After all, they are really “fast”
There are several jokes about snails and their speed. But fame is unfair. According to some farmers, “proportionately they walk much faster than we do.” And do not stand still.
Not wanting to go into details, apparently, there are industrial secrets, and an electrified fence system is usually installed so they do not escape. Still, there are some traps.
Although the business yields income, few are the companies that act with professionalism. However, “there are hundreds” of people with small “farms”. Ana Ferreira lists five with all the requirements. He certainly does not know how many people are in business, even because the activity “is poorly regulated.” In all cases, the “caracoletas” consumed come from Portugal.
A short life
When it comes to business exploitation, production rotation has to be faster than in nature. Each “caracoleta” lives between three and four months. Without stating certainty, farmers say that they can be free at the age of four or five.
In terms of costs, the planting of vegetables requires a cost of water of 250 m3 per plot (on average). “In winter, less is consumed, because the soil is super-humid.”
The picking period begins at the end of the afternoon and widens at night, because the “caracoletas” are nocturnal. Although knowing the moment of planting and the rhythm of growth of the animal, there are always variants, so it is not all to the eito. The sign of “maturity” lies in the “tip of the bark, which folds out”, explains the farmer.
The snail “caviar”
In addition to accompanying the beer, what can you do with the “caracoleta”? the best example is that of codfish. We guarantee that all that Gadus morhua Linnaeus (codfish) allows in gastronomy has its equivalent in Helix aspersa maxima (caracoleta).
In addition to competing with “our” cod, we recommend “caracoleta” pizza … “feijoada” or rice. One hypothesis to think of relates to haute cuisine … the “caviar”. Snail eggs reach 900 euros per kilogram. However, there is the problem of reproduction.
What to do in Lisbon? Let´s book a Snail Farm Experience!
Want to know the life of snails? Come and take a guided tour of a snail production and get a closer look at how they live and how they feed. You will arrive at the snail farm and we will introduce you to the farmer. After the presentation, we will walk through the farm to see the snails and all the equipment and special techniques. We will see the snail nursery where they produce the “caviar” that are much appreciated by many countries. This is a true experience, so you will pick some snails. The farmer will teach you how to taste snails and explain what makes good snails —and what makes the bad stuff, too. To finish our experience we will have a great lunch in the farm (optional), and we will taste an easy and savory Portuguese recipe.
You will end this day with a wealth of knowledge about production techniques, history, and the freshness, intensity, and variety that high-quality snails can offer.
Location: Torres Novas (60 min from Lisbon)
Duration: 4 hours
Number of persons: 2 to 40 PAX
Our experience will include:
- Arrival at the farm and welcome by the producer
- Guided tour of the farm
- Practical workshop
- Snail picking experience
- Tasting of snails
- Lunch will include: drinks, appetizers, fried beans and snails “feijoada”, dessert and coffee
- Transportation from Lisbon
Our farm creates and markets snails as well as “Helix Aspersa Máxima” fingerlings in an adapted complete biological cycle. All the production is carried out in an agricultural greenhouse with irrigation systems by nebulizers, in order to guarantee the ideal temperatura and humidity for the growth and development of the species. The greenhouse is composed of 12 fenced parks seeded with radishes, cabbages and turnips and with an average of 460 shelters in appropriate wood.
The Helix Aspersa is an air-breathing snail, which has a single lung. They have a brownish soft body, covered with slimy mucus and yellow or cream-colored shells with brown spiral stripes. The shell of this species has a height of about 0.9-1.3 inches, and a width of 0.9-1.5 inches and a lip appears at its edge when an individual is old. It is a small mollusk, with a shell that has a sphere shape and a slightly rough surface, with about 4 or 5 spirals.
Snails are a great source of the valuable lectin, possesses anti-cancer properties and helps in boosting the immune system and fighting against cancerous cells. The snail slime is extremely rich in allantonin, collage and elastin, which is beneficial for the treatment of skin diseases and broken bones. The secretions also have a copper peptide, which is regarded as the only source of a substance manufactured for creating creams that are useful in minimizing scares and wounds.