Tuesday, March 16, 2010


About the only snails I can stomach (to look at, not to eat) are the tiny little things that clean the sides of a fish tank. I don’t know anyone who could find fault with those little guys. The garden variety of snail is another matter. I don’t like to see them, I don’t like what they do to a garden, and I most especially don’t like to accidentally step on one in the evening when I’m taking a walk barefooted and don’t see the ugly thing crossing the sidewalk in front of me.

I don’t mind snakes. I don’t mind lizards. I am not crazy about earthworms but I let them be because they are good for the soil. But there is something just revolting about a snail. I have eaten a raw oyster but never a cooked snail. And I never will.

Thank goodness I don’t live in Florida. I read in the newspaper that they are having an invasion of Achatina fulica - giant snails. Again.

Seems in 1966 a little kid smuggled three snails into the Miami area. The article doesn’t say where he got them, but apparently Grandma didn’t like them any more than I would like them and she turned them loose. She didn’t even step on them, throw them against a wall, toss them out in the street or pour salt on them – all ways I’ve heard of to get rid of snails. Within 7 years a census was taken of these giant snails and searchers found they had multiplied from 3 to at least 18,000.

How they disposed of them I don’t even want to think about. But whatever they did was enough to get rid of them. They are major plant and citrus destroyers, plus they eat houses - stucco and plaster - to help grow their shells. But the worst of it is that they spread diseases to humans. Now the newspaper article didn’t say how the disease was spread, but it didn’t take me long on Google to see that most of the damage comes from eating them.

Oh, gross!

From the little I could understand of the medical reports, there are parasites galore inside the snail flesh. Eating them cooked should kill the parasites but it seems the damage can be done just by touching the snails while preparing to cook them. And since the parasite causes a form of meningitis and often ends in death, it just isn’t something you want to take a chance on. But I’m sure there is some restaurant that is going to say it ain’t so and serve a giant snail anyway, probably like a shrimp bent over a finger of rice in a sushi parlor. And there is going to be someone foolhardy enough to try it. There always are. Consider the pufferfish.

Florida is going on the attack. I imagine while the humans are taking their own census, the federal and state powers that be in Florida are going to do another Achatina fulica census to determine how many are back and how aggressive extermination programs should be.

After being in Florida one time – on August 2, 1975, arriving by plane and heading to Ft. Lauderdale for a honeymoon cruise - I could never understand why anyone would live in a place where when you tried to breathe air all you got was water in your lungs. Now I am even more confident that Florida is not the place I want to be. Battling large bugs, ugly alligators and that summer humidity is bad enough. Now to think of finding a giant snail crossing one’s path, if not on one’s plate, is just too much.

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