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Posts Tagged ‘molluscs’

garden slug

If we eat escargots, why don’t we eat slugs?  They’re boneless, meaty (likely high in protein) and many species are herbivores, so we’d be eating fairly low on the food chain.

Of course, they might sound tastier in French:

I’d like to order an appetizer of limaces s’il vous plaît, with a glass of red wine. Better make that a bottle.  

Like escargots, slugs (or limaces, if you prefer) would probably taste best cooked with lots of garlic, butter and a bit of parsley, but could also be thrown into a stew, battered and fried or added to a Caesar salad.  

L.E. Adams 1896

L.E. Adams 1896

Slugs thrive in moist environments. I’ve seen slugs near misty waterfalls on the west coast of Canada that were close to six inches in length.  The ones here on the east coast aren’t nearly half that size, but they are nevertheless quite common in the garden.  They’re eaten by birds, reptiles and amphibians.  Although they shrink their bodies when threatened and can be rather slithery to grasp, they are still fairly easy to catch.  Slow food.

A few years ago, on a dare, an Australian ate a couple of garden slugs.  I can see someone doing that, especially after a few beers.  It seems harmless enough.  He nearly died.  Neurologists concluded that he had acquired both meningitis and encephalitis from the leopard slugs he had eaten.  The article cites a couple of other individuals who didn’t survive.  Apparently, the larval stage of the parasitic worm Angiostrongylus cantonensis lives in molluscs, including slugs.  Extreme heat will kill the worm but it may not be worth the risk.  Some slugs would probably be more suspect than others, but to the untrained eye, it would be difficult to tell the difference between one species and another.  The chart above shows types of slugs found in Great Britain. 

Meanwhile, in one corner of southern Italy, it’s believed that eating a whole, raw slug will aid gastritis or stomach ulcers.  Slug mucous is also used there to treat skin ailments.  See reference here.

garden snail

This is the first year I’ve noticed several garden snails in the yard.  Their shells are fairly delicate and the snails themselves are quite small.  An Italian friend in Ontario used to pick and cook land snails she’d find along the railway tracks.  The ones she picked must have been closer in size to the periwinkles found along the shore here in Nova Scotia.

periwinkles on driftwood

To my knowledge, periwinkles are not eaten in Nova Scotia.  However, they are cooked and eaten elsewhere in the world.  Food tastes are cultural.  Meningitis and encephalitis, however, are cross-cultural infections.  There’s a Chinese belief that eating molluscs while you have a wound on your body will lengthen recovery time.  Even Leviticus 20 in the Old Testament warns against eating any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground.  It might be best to be safe than sorry the next time someone dares you to eat a slug.

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moonshell spiralThe spiral is a shape that has fascinated humans since ancient times.  The first symbols drawn on the planet were spirals, thought to represent the sun and eternity.

When one thinks of spirals in nature, univalve seashells immediately come to mind.  These spirals are logarithmic, the distance between the turns increasing as the shape becomes larger.  (Don’t confuse this shape with an archimedean spiral).

Logarithmic spirals were called spira mirabilis ( marvelous spirals) by the scientists who first studied them.  Besides seashells, this shape is also found in fiddlehead ferns in spring time, the arrangement of seeds in sunflowers and the scales of pinecones.  Not all spirals in nature are static.  Galaxies and tornadoes follow this shape, as do hawks in their approach to prey in flight.

pine cone A look into the mathematics behind spiral shapes can lead to further study of the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Numbers, both fascinating topics.

The spiral is one of several interesting shapes that are found repeatedly in nature.  These shapes often form exquisite patterns and many are building blocks for larger things.  Last week I wrote about the meander.

In the Saturdays between now and mid-summer’s eve, I’ll explore a number of other shapes found in nature as a lead-up to a Summer Scavenger Hunt.  Details of the hunt to be disclosed June 20th.

For more information on the spiral form in freshwater and sea shells, see the shell section at Drawing Conclusions.

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