AFTER moving into beautiful home near Taunton two years ago, Lyn Paxman and her husband Rob could not decide what to do with the extra land they had…until they discovered the art of breeding snails.

Both originally from city backgrounds, the pair decided they must put the extra space to good use.

“I was Googling what to do with a piece of land,” said Lyn.

Somerset County Gazette: Lyn couldn't decide what to do with her land...until she tried snail farmingLyn couldn't decide what to do with her land...until she tried snail farming

“But the traditional things, like sheep farming, we didn’t have experience of, and things like alpacas and llamas - well, I wasn’t really sure what the market was.

“One Sunday morning snail farming came up and I came across Eva in Ireland from Gaelic Escargot.

“Eva’s been doing it for eight years now and she started a bit of a movement in Ireland, and it has become a collective over there. And I thought there was an opportunity for this in the UK.

“Being part of something a bit different was what really interested me.”

After completing a training course with Eva in Ireland, Lyn and Rob started to set up their own business – Somerset Escargot.

This year has been their first year of farming. There were originally 1,000 breeder snails which have now turned into between 50,000 and 80,000 snails.

In the wild, snails will live between 18 months and three years but in better conditions, Lyn explains they can live up to ten years.

Now, the pair have a bigger task - to sell the snails to local restaurants and eventually to customers as well.

Somerset County Gazette: Snail farmer Lyn PaxmanSnail farmer Lyn Paxman

“I am really excited about finding innovative chefs who want to try something different and offer something unusual,” said Lyn.

“We’re building up our customers now, and obviously lockdown, like many businesses has set us back, because pubs and restaurants were all closed – and no one wanted to talk about buying snails.

“I think that the interesting challenge is creating the market – and converting people to eating escargot.

“You get a bit of a Marmite reaction with them!

“Many years ago I’d never eaten squid, mussels and so on but now they are a lot more mainstream than years ago and so I think snails could be too.

“People say they are really chewy, but ours are not chewy at all.

“I slow cook mine for 45 minutes to an hour and then they are really tender. The taste is quite mushroom-y I think.

“I make something call snail bombs, wrapped in garlic cream in breadcrumbs and then deep fried.

Somerset County Gazette: Lyn from Somerset Escargot makes Snail BombsLyn from Somerset Escargot makes Snail Bombs

“I’ve put them in stir fry’s, in paellas – there’s lots of ways you can cook them.

“Escargot caviar is also very popular – it is said to be an organoleptically satisfying experience!

“We are not currently supplying caviar, but would definitely do this if requested and it’s something we intend to explore further in future.”

It might seem unusual to us to eat escargot, but in fact they have been an important part of our history, and are still eaten regularly in other areas of Europe.

The Romans first considered them a delicacy, calling them ‘wallfish’.

In Somerset there are records of them being known as ‘Mendip Wallfish’ and prepared with herbs, butter and cider by chef Paul Leyton in the 1960s.

“As a population we are looking at more sustainable sources of protein,” Lyn added.

“Snail meat is really high in protein and low in carbs and fat, and it has got lots of really healthy nutrients.”

Somerset Escargot is based in between Taunton and Wellington.

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Somerset County Gazette: Lyn has between 50,000 and 80,000 snails on her farmLyn has between 50,000 and 80,000 snails on her farm