We’re finally coming out of our shell here at invasivore.org with our first recipe, Mysterysnail Fettuccine. Read on for all the info you need to collect and cook these tasty aquatic pests!
Chinese mysterysnails (Cipangopaludina chinensis) are prosobranch snails, meaning they have an operculum or “trap door” on their shell that seals up when threatened. The adult mysterysnails that you will want to collect for eating will be approximately the size of a golf ball, and they tend to be dark brown in color but can also appear olive green. The key distinguishing feature of Chinese mysterysnails that you may be able to distinguish in the field is the presence of three parallel rows of fine hairs that run along the center of the shell whorl, although these hairs seem to weather off over time so they can be easy to miss.
In this photo of an adult Chinese mysterysnail, the three rows of tiny hairs (indicated by arrows) are visible on the front of the shell, but have worn away around the top of the shell. Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
In invaded lakes, large adult mysterysnails can often be most easily collected on large rocks in the near-shore zone of the lake. Essentially, this means you should be able to wade into knee-deep water with a bucket and pluck a bounty of snails off the rocks.
Preparing Snails for Cooking
When you have returned to the kitchen with your snails (still alive), rinse any debris off their shells with cool running water. Typically, when preparing other more traditional land snails such as Helix species, snails need rearing for 1-2 weeks on a diet of greens and corn meal to clear grit out of the gut and fatten them up. In our experience, we have found that more impatient invasivores can keep collected snails in a bucket of clean water for 24-48 hours without food to effectively purge their tiny guts. Chinese mysterysnails are incredibly hearty and should be easy to keep alive in a bucket for a few days. Keep in mind, though, that snails are heavily regulated by the USDA, so be responsible with your catch- don’t let them escape or intentionally release them.
In their native range, Chinese mysterysnails have been implicated as vectors for human intestinal flukes. However, to our knowledge, this has not been observed in North America. Nevertheless, it is essential that the next step is followed completely, and that snails are cooked thoroughly before consumption! Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add snails, and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Next, drain the snails and allow them to cool so that you can handle them. Use a knife to pry the trap door of the shell open and, with a tight grasp on the trap door, pull the snail out of its shell. Separate the foot of the snail (the dark meaty part that sticks out of the shell when the snail is crawling around- what you can see in the myserysnail picture above) from the trap door and the rest of the snail guts. The foot is edible; dispose of the rest of the snail.
Recipe: Mysterysnail Fettuccine
- 50 snails, prepared as previously described
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package (10 oz) fettuccine noodles
- Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions
- While pasta boils, melt butter in a pan over medium heat then add snails and minced garlic. Stir often for 15 minutes (Remember: snails MUST be cooked thoroughly before human consumption!)
- Drain pasta and toss with snail-butter-garlic sauce
Snail fettuccine served with fruit, corn on the cob, garlic bread, slaw, and another invasive recipe you will soon see on invasivore.org, boiled rusty crayfish. Photo credit: Ashley Baldridge