Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to Eat Slugs

For anybody who is interested in the how-to of slug-consuming, here is the recipe I posted on our blog 2 years ago, when we ate our first slugs. Since then, I've learned enough to know that eating leopard slugs and dusky arions is the way to go (they're the edible invasives that are taking the habitat of the banana slugs). But nevertheless, here you go... the full slug deets:

(Cross-posted from an Oct. 2007 post at Rickshaw Unschooling, my previous blog.)
Today we harvested slugs. Yes -- slugs. Banana slugs. We, the intrepid harvesters of all foods wild and edible, tromped out in the dark, heavy forest looking for slugs. And found one. One green one, and one black one, which we declined to eat, because our friend Sheila says they taste like rubber tires, and even just licking them raw can make your tongue numb. (Not appetizing, we thought.)

We were terribly disappointed in the lack of slugs, turned over many an old rotten log and stone in our search, and ended up bringing home a large collection of various grubs, worms, millipedes, and one beetle and very large centipede as a result. Luckily it started raining on the way home, and we did manage to harvest 4 slugs on the return walk: one for each of us!

Here are the kids, discussing our plans at a particularly devoid-of-slugs-moment in the woods (notice Rhiannon's horrible eye infection in this video! Poor Annie!):



Finally, we did get home with the slugs, and the following photos will tell the story:
The Recipe: Deep-Fried Slugs and Green Tomatoes
Allow the slugs to live in a bucket or terrarium full of healthy wild greens for at least a few days (we leave them for about a week). This ensures they've excreted any potential poisons they may have ingested prior to being harvested, and fed up on healthy greens.


Look at the slugs before you kill them. Say "poor slugs", and "I'm sorry, but I hope you taste yummy." Then pick off any large pieces of dirt.

Drop slugs into a bowl with ½ vinegar, ½ hot water. Soak for 10 minutes or so to kill them and remove slime.

Rinse, then boil for about 3 minutes; change water.

Rinse, and boil again, until they stop producing slime. Stir well to separate slime from slugs, then rinse thoroughly. Slit along ventral side of each slug, being careful not to slice the organs, inside, and pull out the digestive gland (in posterior of slug), and any other organs that come out easily.

Turn slug inside out, cut a small slice into the inside of the mantle and slip out the shell. (I am sure we could eat this, but in the interest of education we took them out to examine.)
Show your amazing gutted slug to Pappa:



Rinse slugs again, cut into bite-sized pieces, and bread. We used eggs, and cornflour with a bit of salt, cumin, savoury, and garlic mixed in. We breaded halved green cherry tomatoes in the same way.
Deep-fry, until nice and brown!

Eat!

They were like a cross between chicken and calamari. A bit like escargot, although I've never experienced deep-fried escargot, so I can't say, exactly! Certainly they were delicious, and the combination with green tomatoes was lovely!
Acknowledgments:
Tim Pearce, Asst Curator and Head, section of Mollusks, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, provided crucial information to our pre-hunting research, via his comments on the Shell-Collecting Tribe: Tim advises removing the digestive gland before eating, cooking the slugs to kill any potential parasites, and soaking them in 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water, to kill and remove slime. He also suggests changing the water repeatedly during boiling, to get rid of slime.

The Urban Pantheist also provides interesting information on banana slugs. The Latin name for our prey is Ariolimax columbianus.

A Note on Conservation:
The E-Fauna BC website lists Pacific Banana slugs as yellow-listed, which is very well indeed for our harvesting of them, but I do wonder if they might be threatened by other species, here. When I was young I remember lots of large banana slugs, and what we called "Army Slugs" (black-spotted banana slugs), and a similarly large amount of black Arion slugs. Now it seems the banana slugs are fewer, while we have an enormous increase in the number of red Arion slugs in the garden (in fact, I don't remember ever seeing them, as a child). This is just passing observation, but unfortunate if it's true that the introduced Arion slugs are pushing out our native mollusks. For this reason we won't be harvesting large quantities of banana slugs, and I intend to research whether or not Arion Rufus might cause tongue-numbness, as does the black Arion variety. If it turns out to be highly edible, we will certainly harvest them, instead!

53 comments:

  1. Thanks! I'm not sure I'll ever practically need this information, but it's terribly fascinating. I don't know that I'd ever have the courage to forage (I have always lived in large cities where this is not really a safe option).

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  2. AnonymousJune 03, 2011

    I wonder how the experiment has progressed? Is Arion Rufus edible or possibly even delicious?

    Thanks for the interesting story!

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  3. We discovered that the invasive dusky arions are not only delicious but also invasive -- here's the recipe we invented:
    http://feralfood.blogspot.com/2009/08/west-coast-wild-tea-with-slug-and.html

    The only downside to these is that each slug is about 1/2 bite, once cooked. Lots of harvesting, in other words!

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  4. You should purge them first for several days to remove any toxins from their bodies.

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  5. This is awesome. Thank you.

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  6. It would be more humane to put them in the refrigerator for a while before killing them. That numbs them. Then make sure the vinegar-water mixture is boiling. When they're thrown in, they're dead before they recognize it. I learnt this from Gordon Ramsey.

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  7. I have just deleted all of the acrimonious posts debating veganism. This is a post about eating slugs. While I think that dietary choices are an interesting subject, this is not the place for vitriolic attack regarding those issues. From now on I will not publish any such comments.
    Please keep your comments on the topic of eating/growing/cooking slugs. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Yuk! Sorry, but yuk! I found my way here by wondering if slugs were edible. I'm glad you enjoy them :)

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  9. AnonymousMay 19, 2014

    Fascinating. There IS something I haven't tried. Never thought of slugs having tried literally hundreds of other creatures from huge to medium to small to tiny.

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  10. Actually, after preparing snails myself, I learned that it is ineffective trying to remove the slime from the creature when it is alive. That will simply trigger more mucus production and it will lower the quality of the meat. That's what many experienced heliciculturists say, and that commercial outfits have abandoned the procedure. So I'd just skip straight to the boiling next time.

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    1. for the sliminess my mom use to put them over night in flour overnight that used to do the trick , make sure to have them in enough flour.

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    2. Not sure. To me, it sounds like all it will do is suffocate in the flour, but while dying exhume a lot of mucus. Unless you mean after they are cooked.

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    3. They're killed in the vinegar solution, prior to the slime removal, which IS the boiling.

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  11. Either that, or just slice their head in half to kill them.

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  12. Just watch out handling snails/slugs.
    There is a parasite nematode/fluke that can be transmitted directly to humans via contact.
    results in brain swelling

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    Replies
    1. If you're talking about Angiostrongylus cantonensis, they will be killed if they are boiled for around 5 minutes.

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    2. good info, thx. there's obviously a lot of potential handling before the boiling and i'd love to do everything possible to prevent brain lesions and epilepsy for the rest of my life. Perhaps edit the above foraging info with "WEAR GLOVES"?

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    3. Angiostrongylus cantonensis (rat lungworm parasite) is passed on to humans by ingestion of undercooked slugs, snails, and rat poop, not by skin contact. Since we usually cook our escargot, it's not much of a problem, especially on the pacific coast of North America where we are located, and there has been (as far as I know) no incident of rat lungworm, here, yet. However, unwashed lettuce may harbour very small slugs which may be consumed accidentally, so... wash your lettuce! Definitely no gloves required for picking up slugs in western Canada.

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  13. So leopard slugs are edible? I have dozens of them, very long specimens in my garden. The largest ones are now in the box. They ate most of my vegetables, I'm vegetarian. So, I want to eat all of them, getting my revenge. It's 3rd day I feed them with remains of those vegetables, they fart and shit a lot.

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    Replies
    1. hahah, go for them! I can understand you, they exterminated my Persil and Lettuce!

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    2. You can put crushed egg shells in your garden to protect your plants from slugs. The sharp edges cut them and they don't like it.

      There are also videos on youtube which shows you how to build an electric fence using a 9 volt battery to protect your garden.

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    3. AnonymousMay 24, 2020

      This is actually a mostly a myth, the eggshells don't damage them in any way because their slime coats the sharp edges and prevents them from being damaged, a slug can actually climb directly over the edge of a razor blade without being harmed.

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  14. I'm always interested in learning which foods I can survive on. Good info. great recipe. Wonder if they're any more slimy than okra. C

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  15. Really, very interesting, and specially how to treat this subject with the sweet kids around! it looks like real normal, as eating seafood.. Anyway, I have not the courage to try it... maybe some day! :) thanks for sharing all this information!

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  16. AnonymousJuly 26, 2015

    Live slugs and Ice Cream give the kids a moving feast

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  17. There was one person in Montreal who experimented with large invasive slugs. He used the method used for escargot.

    Fed them a leaf of lettuce for a day to eliminate the sand inside, then starved them for 8 days, he salted them to eliminate the slime. Once the slime was eliminated, he followed traditionnal french recipe for escargot.

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  18. Wow, you are brave! Though really, they should be similar to escargot (which are delicious!)! I love that the kids participated too.. not sure mine would!

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  19. I have been wondering about this! Fascinating.

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  20. Very interesting read... Never thought I would be looking forwards to finding slugs in my garden! What a rich harvest awaits me come the warmer weather. Thanks.

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  21. Hello I was just told that banana slug can be boiled with garlic and drank like a tea as a treatment in controlling asthma. Is banana slug really safe to consume. I really need some help with this.

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    1. Yes, banana slugs are safe to consume. However I find it very surprising that they would help with asthma. Not saying it's impossible, but I'd be interested to hear what the supposed mechanism there is. Protein - yes. Medicine - I don't know. However, please be aware that banana slugs are being displaced in some regions by invasive slugs. If you can eat leopard slugs or dusky arions, that would be ecologically preferable to bananas. Avoid black arions, however, due to their toxins.

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    2. Hi Emily,

      Very interesting post. Just a couple of hours ago we collected lots of dark arions that may be black, spanish or both. Some of them were eating our vegetables. Is there some new developments about eating these types? You mentioned they contain toxins. Here in Sweden they were used to lubricate the axes of old wooden transportation but and even to grease the pan but I have found no mentions to eating them, which is curious.

      Looking forward,

      Omar

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    3. Interesting about greasing axles! I haven't learning anything more about them since writing this post, honestly. I still believe that the black and red arions are inedible, and that ALL slugs can potentially carry a very harmful parasite, so need to be cooked thoroughly. Also, since they often eat toxic substances like poisonous mushrooms and dog poop, it's important to keep them in a box with fresh greens for a few days to clean out their systems before cooking them.

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    4. Thanks Emily.

      This is the link to the original paper, in case you want to know more

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232672151_Black_slugs_Arion_ater_as_grease_A_case_study_of_technical_use_of_gastropods_in_pre-industrial_Sweden

      The author is an ethnobiologist from Uppsala University that has several papers on very interesting and disparate subjets. They make good stories with the extra that the subject of their research is, in some cases, to bring legends into the scientific realm.

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    5. Wow thank you "Unknown"! What a fascinating study. :-)

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    6. Thank you and your family for posts like this. By the way, yesterday I applied iron phosphate to the beds since the slugs are easily outcompeting my efforts at collecting them.
      My name is Omar Gutierrez Arenas.
      You can find about some my projects and "wandering" here: www.apartes.se.
      More work has been done since the last post.

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    7. Nice to meet you Omar! I like your project to build a homestead. We also used to raise rabbits for meat when I was a girl, but at the moment it's too much work to start again. We have started with chickens again and show a lot about them on our youtube channel and blog: Rickshaw Unschooling
      :-)

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    8. Interesting. It seems like a bold move.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Omar

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  22. I'm curious if anyone has used lemon or lime juice to cook slugs.

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  23. The banana slugs have over run the little island near Juneau where I pick berries. The literature says they eat dead matter, but they are eating the red huckleberry and devil's club live leaves here, leaving their slimy trails on the huckleberry bushes, and hanging on as they eat like some high wire act. If anyone knows where I could sell them, let me know at my website goodsalmon dot com.

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    Replies
    1. I hear ducks and chickens love slugs. Maybe someone should pasture poultry there for a while before the berries ripen.

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  24. Fantastic. The best way to catch them is with platic bottle cut in half filled with beer.

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  25. Replies
    1. No! They carry a dangerous parasite. You need to cook it first.

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  26. I randomly had an idea that sluggs nutrition specifications must be high in protein, this was insightful with the spice haha nice work guys

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  27. Interesting stuff. Good to know for if there is literally nothing else edible left in the world. Slug slime and guts seems to be where I would choose to draw the line in food prep. I have to remove large ones of these from my yard every night in the summer. They sometimes crawl in through my open door. My cats regard them as interesting but not edible. Maybe I will try the cooking thing sometime and see what my cats think.

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  28. This is a great article i am glad to read his article and i totally enjoy.its contain is unique and amazing,thanks for sharing.
    slime shops

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  29. You probably use more energy preping than you get from eating them.

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  30. Nice post, impressive. It’s quite different from other posts. Thanks for sharing.

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  31. Wow.

    Thank you for answering a decades-old question for me! When I was doing field research one summer my co-worker and I were both running low on food and reluctant to leave the backcountry & brave civilization to restock. We were on BC's Gulf Islands so had plentiful slugs (but this was pre-mobile internet days, so no way to investigate other than personal...). It definitely crossed our minds but we concluded that if something that big & juicy could just crawl around without protection of a shell or weaponry (claws, teeth, etc) it must be either toxic or extremely unpalatable or both.

    Now I wish we'd tried it!

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  32. Replies
    1. It could be. I don't believe they have a whole lot of nutrients, and require a lot of processing (including keeping in a container eating greens for a week) before eating so... not a lot of benefit for your time and effort. I imagine you might get more from the greens they ate... But, they'll have a little protein, at least.
      The reason we did this is not so much for survival-practice as for adventure. I believe that being connected to (and understanding) our wilderness is the best education kids and adults can have. If we only eat what we buy in stores, we have little appreciation for the fact that we are, actually, part of our own ecosystem, whether we eat there or not.

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