Swabian Alb Snail
The Albschnecke or Swabian Alb Snail belongs to the Roman snail (Helix pomatia): this is due to the fact that Helix pomatia was an important part in the ancient Romans’ diet. That is documented by numerous excavation sites, where snail shells have been found in Roman kitchen waste. By the spreading of the Roman empire many snail recipes may have found their way also in the far off territories of the Roman civilization.
In the South of Germany snails were also cultivated. A medieval centre of snail farming and trade was the town of Indelhausen in the upper Lauter valley on the Swabian Mountains. The snails cultivated here were esteemed very delicate, because they had been fed with different herbs. Even today the snail merchant of stone on the bridge in Indelhausen witnesses of those times, when snails were sent from here until Vienna, over a thousand kilometres away.
Today snails are a quite exquisite dish, at least because edible snails have become very rare in nature. In Germany Helix pomatia is under government protection and mentioned on several red lists. It is not supposed to be collected in nature. With about 4 inches body length and up to 2 inches shell diameter is the largest European terrestrial snail. Together with other well known snails such as the banded snails (Cepea nemoralis) and the tree snail (Arianta arbustorum) it belongs to the helicid snails. Roman snails crawl around especially in the evening to look for food.
The Swabian Alb snail has an ancient tradition in Swabia. In winter time during hibernation, when the shell is naturally closed by a calcareous lid, it was exported for sale as far as Paris and Vienna, where it was also called “Svevia Oyster”. For this special snail, big sized individuals are used: grown in the mountains region of the Swabian Alb, where climate, lime stone as bedrock material with specific vegetation and aromatic plants, they are harvested as “closed” snail during hibernation, providing excellent taste and consistency.
Swabian Alb snails are traditionally prepared by first removing the snail's entrails and boiling them in an herb-rich infusion, or are packed in butter, with or without herbs. There are also several different presentations: as an entree, cooked in a pan with herb butter, as snail soup, as cold snail salad, as a sauce with home-made pasta, or grilled as a snail skewer. This snail can also be served as a main dish during Lent in Catholic regions.
Its taste, due to its high fat content, its natural purification process before hibernation and to its the particular breeding conditions (climate, limestone and natural vegetation, additional aromatic plants like Origanum vulgare and Thymus pulegioides) is rich in hazelnut flavors. The Swabian Alb snails taste less earthy than snails harvested in springtime, and different from snails from other areas of the same species (such as those from the Mediterranean) and of other species (such as Helix aspersa).
A group of 25 people (supported by PLENUM and REGIONEN AKTIV e.V. from Reutlingen district committed themselves in preserving and promoting these traditional products.