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Posts Tagged ‘slugs’

Even Van Gogh’s Starry Night pales in comparison to the fresh beauty and scent of flowers brought indoors from the garden.

Whether they’re lilies, peonies or another seasonal favorite, fresh blooms have the ability to bring any room in the house to life.

Although I don’t usually bring cut flowers indoors, these peonies fell onto the ground after a recent rain .  As peonies require ants to complete the pollination process, I was careful to inspect the blooms prior to bringing them indoors.

Little did I know that something else had hitchhiked in with the blooms, likely on a leaf.  It was only a matter of a few minutes before it had made its way onto the table leg.  Can you see it?

Nature is always full of surprises.

Whether you’re enjoying nature indoors or outdoors on this beautiful sunny day, Happy Canada Day to you!  By the way, this slug will be spending the rest of the day outdoors 🙂

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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What would happen if I ate a slug? Is eating slugs dangerous? Are slugs nutritious? Enquiring minds want to know. And so, several times a day for the past 18 months, visitors have arrived at Flandrum Hill in search of answers.

Back in July of 2009, I wrote a post about Eating Slugs and Snails.  To date it’s received more views than any other post on this site. 

I’d wondered if slugs were edible ever since I marvelled at the sight of 6 inch long ones in British Columbia decades ago.  Even the smaller ones in Nova Scotia looked meaty and boneless, and I wondered why nobody seemed interested in cooking them up for nutritious fare. Well, apparently there’s a good reason for this.

Slugs harbor a host of parasites. You can contract meningitis by consuming them.  Not to mention death.  So there you have it. I hope all those folks who visited my post found the answers they were looking for and had their sluggish apetites curtailed.

Still, if you aren’t yet convinced that there are better things than slugs with which to satisfy your apetite, at least cook them well before you eat them.  In order to kill any bacteria, it’s recommended that turkey be roasted to an internal temperature of at least 165ºF.  I’d go with at least that (and then some) if roasting slugs. 

Even in January, slugs can be found curled up under rocks in my backyard.  You’re welcome to come and pick your own.  Just remember to put the rocks back in place when you’re done.

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american toad

Toads have never been popular with humans and females especially.  The thing is, even though toads may be considered ugly creatures, they are actually quite beneficial to gardens and humans.  Much of this has to do with a toad’s diet.

What a toad will eat:

  • ants
  • mosquitoes
  • slugs
  • snails
  • grubs and worms

An adult American Toad, the most common type found here in Nova Scotia and throughout North America, can eat 1,000 insects in one day.  Consequently, just a few toads can have a tremendous effect on insect populations in an area.  A toad’s apetite for slugs and snails is also helpful in controlling these pests in gardens.

Toads can tolerate drier environments than frogs and also have long sticky retractable tongues that they can use to catch insects in flight.  So, how do you attract these darlings to your yard?

  • Allow shallow pools of water to sit in your yard in the springtime.  These temporary pools from excess rain and melting snow are called vernal pools and are all that’s needed for toads to lay their long strands of eggs.  (Frog eggs are laid in clusters).
  • Create piles of dead leaves where toads, which are mostly nocturnal, can bury themselves to keep cool and moist during the day.  They will also bury themselves deep under these as winter approaches.
  • Offer hiding places where toads can stay out of the drying sun.  These can be small caves made from arrangements of stones or overturned terra cotta pots.  Wild areas are also helpful in providing places where toads can remain cool among tall weeds.  Toads like to stay moist, which is a challenge during hot summer months.
  • Refrain from use of pesticides. This last point seems obvious to me, but might not be for gardeners trying to grow fragile non-native plant species.

american toad1

Snakes and loss of habitat are the greatest threat to toads, which can live for up to ten years in the wild.  Try attracting them rather than moving them into your garden from another environment, as they likely won’t survive.   Many toads and frogs will secrete poison to make themselves unpalatable to enemies, so it’s not recommended that you kiss them to see if they’re princes in disguise.

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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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under stones

Turning over rocks and stones to see what’s living beneath them is a great outdoor activity to get children interested in nature.  Salamanders, ants, spiders, worms and slugs all like to snuggle down beneath stones.  Though each overturning will produce fairly similar results, once they start, children likely won’t be satisfied until they’ve overturned every stone in sight.

During one such session with my grandson last week, I was amazed at the large number of ant tunnels and ants to be found beneath the stones.  Their numbers seem far greater than they used to be.  Good thing there are lots of birds here too.  This spring I’ve already seen flickers and woodpeckers digging for ants in the lawn and woods.   Besides eating great amounts of these insects, flickers are known to keep feather parasites in check by preening themselves with crushed ants.

Salamanders found under stone in mint bed

Frogs and toads also eat their fair share of ants.  Homes can easily be made for these creatures among the stones.  Reptiles also like to dwell beneath stones.  According to my sons, snakes have frequently been found under the rocks at the end of the driveway near the ditch.

One evening years ago, I was startled to see flashlights suddenly brightening the living room window.  As I opened the door, I was relieved to see that it was only our friendly neighbors turning over stones along the flower bed in search of bait for the next morning’s fishing trip.   Besides humans, raccoons are other omnivores that are known to turn over stones in search of hidden treasure, especially in streams.

If you do turn over stones, be sure to put them back in the same place afterwards.  Children will quickly learn to do this if you make it a pre-requisite to turning over the next stone.

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woodpile1For small wildlife, nothing could be cozier this winter than snuggling down beneath a nice, messy wood pile, especially one that’s begun to rot.  I have several of these piles in my yard.  I know they’re well used.  Sometimes, after a fresh snow, I see little tracks to and from the piles.  It warms my heart to know that small creatures feel safe and cozy in my little neck of the woods.

Centipedes and beetles love wood piles.  They also love to eat slugs and slug eggs, which is good news to gardeners.  Toads and salamanders will hibernate beneath moist wood piles while voles and shrews will appreciate the drier ones.

Creating a wood pile is all too easy.  You gather up a few sticks and branches, perhaps stack a few logs, and place them in a spot that is off the beaten path.  Then you leave it alone.  The hardest part is accepting the fact that your yard is going to have to look a bit messy in order to be attractive to wildlife.

 

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