Viennese Escargots – Gugumuck

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Escargot Farm

WORKING AT A SNAIL’S PACE

URBAN AGRICULTURE

New urban agriculture concepts can provide significant relief to the environment. On the Gugumuck Farm, we are pioneers of escargot farming. Unlike conventional meat production, snails can be produced using very few resources. Since there is no need for concentrated feed mash and no manure is produced, there is also less ozone, less water is used, and the farming area is smaller, all making escargot farming an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional meat production. Snails need 85% less feed than cattle to produce 1 kilogram of meat.

 

 

 

Sunset after the rain

NATURAL FARMING METHODS

Our vineyard snails are raised using natural methods and no chemicals. The animals live naturally and free-range on our vegetable field. We feed them plants from our own farm and vegetables and herbs grown locally in the neighborhood. We add special organic feed from local mills, and lime to help them grow their shells.

Snails need less space than other farm animals. Our snail fields are about 2,000 m² in size and are located right on the Gugumuck Farm. They are surrounded by two fences. The outer fence keeps out wild animals such as jackrabbits, deer, and pheasants, animals which are quite common on the outskirts of Vienna. The inner fence is smeared with canola grease and salt to create a biological barrier that keeps the snails from wandering off. When the snails smell the salt, they simply turn around and go the other way.

SNAILS LIKE IT MOIST

Vineyard snails are especially active at night and in wet weather. This protects them from losing moisture. When it is especially hot, we sprinkle the snails with a delicate drizzle at night. This simulates the morning dew. If it happens to rains too much, the snails just climb up the wooden slats. It’s the steam rising from the ground that they don’t like.

A SNAIL LOVE SHACK

Snail mating season starts in the spring and lasts until early summer. When two snails who are both ready to mate meet, it is not a mere stroke of luck. They have a gland on their head that emits an attractive scent to lure other snails to them.

We have set up a special snail love shack in the old Gugumuck Farm pigsty. Inside, a perfect month of May is carefully simulated. This keeps our vineyard snails in the mating mood. We harvest the eggs manually to create our gourmet delicacy Vienna Escargot Caviar, or Escargot Pearls.

HARVESTING THE ESCARGOT

We breed two types of vineyard snails on the Gugumuck Farm in Rothneusiedl: domestic Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa maxima, originally from southern Europe. Due to global warming, they have continued to expand their natural territory northward. These two types of escargot are biologically very different, and have very different flavors.

THE STRONG HELIX POMATIA

The Helix pomatia is a relatively large snail with a light-colored shell, also called the “gros blanc”. It takes about two years for a “gros blanc” to mature. They can only be harvested once a year, in the springtime after the mating season. In the second half of the year, there is already too much lime in their meat, stored to grow a lid for hibernation. When it gets cold, this kind of snail crawls into an earthen hole and goes to sleep. It doesn’t come out until the weather begins to warm in the springtime.

The Helix pomatia has a deliciously nutty flavor. It is ideally suited for our popular classic, Vienna Escargot gratin with herb butter.

THE DELICATE HELIX ASPERSA MAXIMA

The Helix aspersa maxima, also called “petit gris”, grows faster and has a dark shell with stripes. They don’t grow a lid for their shell in the fall and therefore can’t survive a frost. This type of escargot can be harvested twice a year. Snails that are not collected for processing spend the winter sleeping in our heated basement. In the spring, when the first green leaves are showing in the fields, we bring the snails back outside to let them wake up and stretch their feelers.

The flavor of the Helix aspersa maxima is delicate and elegant. It is ideally suited for a wide variety of dishes, including our Vienna Escargot ragout and Vienna Escargot in balsamic onions.