Virginia Lawrence | Caminito del Rocio
|A snail crossing the Del Mar Scenic sidewalk leaving a trail
of slimy dots behind it. Photos Virginia Lawrence.
We lived in Geneva, Switzerland for 25 years, and on Christmas Eve our French friends always invited us for the Réveillon dinner. After une coupe de champagne, they would serve snails (escargots) in the shell prepared with garlic, parsley, and butter. Now, back in the States, I no longer find snails on my plate. However, I do spot them outdoors, but only in the spring in the early morning, only if it has rained or the sprinklers are on, and only on the sidewalk next to the Del Mar Scenic Parkway. Are sidewalk snails good to eat? I have no idea, and am not planning to investigate.
Snails move very slowly. The French have an expression, opération escargot, which refers to a type of highway demonstration which deliberately impedes traffic. The Del Mar Scenic Parkway snails, however, do not impede pedestrian traffic; rather they tend to be squished (the snails) on a frequent basis.
So, how can snails keep safe? Snails are born with and are physically attached to their shells, and when they feel threatened, they shelter in place. Further, snails are nocturnal and would rarely be out and about during the daytime hours. Still, a foolhardy snail who stays out too late will face the possibilty of extinction as the day brightens.
Snails move with the help of a muscular “foot” which produces a wave-like motion, contracting and stretching and pushing the snail forward. While moving, snails leave behind a dotted trail of slime, a lubricant they produce which allows them to go on any terrain without injuring their bodies. Snail slime is sometimes used in facial products to improve scars, wrinkles, acne spots, and skin lines. As seen on Google images, some women anchor snails to their faces for prime slime delivery.
A snail has only one eye making it easier, one may suppose, to catch its hours of shuteye. A snail sleeps between 13 and 15 hours, and then stays up for 30. It will hide in damp places during the day and come out at night to forage and fool around. Every snail has both male and female reproductive organs and can mate with any snail it fancies. As for food, snails eat just about anything, including each other. Depending on its habitat, and with a large dose of luck, a snail will live for five to seven years. A few senior snails have lived as long as 25 years!
Part of the natural balance, snails provide food for all sorts of mammals, birds, worms, and insects. Thrushes in particular thrive on them! Not to mention the French.