Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wild Food: Killing our Own Meat

I was raised on rabbits, and, although I never had to kill them, I saw my father do it. And all of us helped slaughter them. It wasn't always easy, and, because I often named our future meals, despite my parents' warnings, often brought many tears. But rabbits are delicious, and were certainly the most ethical meat I have ever consumed. The experience also gave me a life-long appreciation for the value of meat, and interest in biology. I want that for my children.

Of course, the truth is that it's hard to kill! So we're starting small. We got our ducks this summer, with the full declared intention of consuming their eggs and potential offspring.

And today we harvested slugs. Yes -- slugs. Banana slugs. We, the intrepid harvesters of all foods wild and edible, tromped out in the dark, heavy forest looking for slugs. And found one. One green one, and one black one, which we declined to eat, because our friend Sheila says they taste like rubber tires, and even just licking them raw can make your tongue numb. (Not appetizing, we thought.)

We were terribly disappointed in the lack of slugs, turned over many an old rotten log and stone in our search, and ended up bringing home a large collection of various grubs, worms, millipedes, and one beetle and very large centipede as a result. Luckily it started raining on the way home, and we did manage to harvest 4 slugs on the return walk: one for each of us!

Here are the kids, discussing our plans at a particularly devoid-of-slugs-moment in the woods (notice Rhiannon's horrible eye infection in this video! Poor Annie!):



Finally, we did get home with the slugs, and the following photos will tell the story:
The Recipe: Deep-Fried Slugs and Green Tomatoes
Look at the slugs before you kill them. Say "poor slugs", and "I'm sorry, but I hope you taste yummy." Then pick off any large pieces of dirt.

Drop slugs into a bowl with ½ vinegar, ½ hot water. Soak for 10 minutes or so to kill them and remove slime.

Rinse, then boil for about 3 minutes; change water.

Rinse, and boil again, until they stop producing slime. Stir well to separate slime from slugs, then rinse thoroughly. Slit along ventral side of each slug, being careful not to slice the organs, inside, and pull out the digestive gland (in posterior of slug), and any other organs that come out easily.

Turn slug inside out, cut a small slice into the inside of the mantle and slip out the shell. (I am sure we could eat this, but in the interest of education we took them out to examine.)
Show your amazing gutted slug to Pappa:



Rinse slugs again, cut into bite-sized pieces, and bread. We used eggs, and cornflour with a bit of salt, cumin, savoury, and garlic mixed in. We breaded halved green cherry tomatoes in the same way.
Deep-fry, until nice and brown!

Eat!

They were like a cross between chicken and calamari. A bit like escargot, although I've never experienced deep-fried escargot, so I can't say, exactly! Certainly they were delicious, and the combination with green tomatoes was lovely!
Acknowledgments:
Tim Pearce, Asst Curator and Head, section of Mollusks, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, provided crucial information to our pre-hunting research, via his comments on the Shell-Collecting Tribe: Tim advises removing the digestive gland before eating, cooking the slugs to kill any potential parasites, and soaking them in 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water, to kill and remove slime. He also suggests changing the water repeatedly during boiling, to get rid of slime.

The Urban Pantheist also provides interesting information on banana slugs. The Latin name for our prey is Ariolimax columbianus.

A Note on Conservation:
The E-Fauna BC website lists Pacific Banana slugs as yellow-listed, which is very well indeed for our harvesting of them, but I do wonder if they might be threatened by other species, here. When I was young I remember lots of large banana slugs, and what we called "Army Slugs" (black-spotted banana slugs), and a similarly large amount of black Arion slugs. Now it seems the banana slugs are fewer, while we have an enormous increase in the number of red Arion slugs in the garden (in fact, I don't remember ever seeing them, as a child). This is just passing observation, but unfortunate if it's true that the introduced Arion slugs are pushing out our native mollusks. For this reason we won't be harvesting large quantities of banana slugs, and I intend to research whether or not Arion Rufus might cause tongue-numbness, as does the black Arion variety. If it turns out to be highly edible, we will certainly harvest them, instead!

20 comments:

Chris said...

Wow! I had no idea that banana slugs were edible.

You guys rock!

spidermama said...

There is much I could eat and if I *had* to eat slugs, of course I would...but I don't know how well I'd do having to separate them from their slime. lol

Melany Vorass said...

Thank you for distilled slug-cooking info! I found your page while searching for tips on cooking and eating slugs (not a whole lot out there.) No surprise you too are from the Pacific Northwest (Seattle here). I enjoyed your pages on unschooling.

If you have any interest in edible weeds, edible insects up around here, watch my blog as I'll be posting some info soon.

www.melanys.blogspot.com

Best wishes, Melany
melanyrae62@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

thats so nasty on so many levels and those poor kids :(

Sarah said...

Hello! My five-year-old son and I saw a slug eating an earthworm at the park the other day. I had thought they were strictly plant-eaters, so we went home and did some research, which ultimately led us to your blog. My dinosaur and kung fu loving son is not easily impressed, but he thought your kids were very cool, and braver than he is. :) So thanks for sharing these pics and your recipe. We just might try it when the slugs come after our strawberries next spring. I don't know if I can get past the slime though...

chiefseth said...

nice blog! so; are the bannana slugs the only edible slug in the nw? waht about the black ones?

Seth

Emily said...

Apparently black slugs contain a toxin that causes numbness to the tongue... I would assume that that makes them rather unhealthy, although I know someone who's eaten one, at camp, once, and lives healthily to this day!
I couldn't find any information at all about the other species' we have, so we just stuck to banana slugs. Also... the other species are all smaller than the bananas, and the bananas cook down to pretty small little things, so the others may just not be worth the sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

Oh, nummy. I'm definitely up for some harvesting. I love wildcrafted foods, and I have found very few snails in my area (Raleigh, NC) that I could take proper culinary advantage of.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I tried British garden slugs. A lot of effort for comparatively little reward. But no ill effects :-) Certainly no tongue-numbing (but I did prepare them very well).

Preparation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jugx9f-q4I

Cooking:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1weAtzZ-0E

Anonymous said...

The banana slug diet also consists of feces, which could mean dog feces in public parks! Removal of that digestive tract really is essential!

Emily said...

One way to clean them out before eating them is to leave them in a terrarium full of fresh leafy greens for a few days. We still remove the digestive gland, though.

Mike said...

Arion ater (Black or Licorice Slug) was introduced from Europe in a load of produce and first observed in New Westminster BC in 1946. Since then they have spread like wildfire... OK OK, they have spread at a snail's pace but slow and steady can cover a lot of ground... Ducks and garter snakes eat them but not much else. I collect them in the evenings, snip them in two and put them in a gallon jar to render down in the sunshine. After a week or so you end up with a frothy goo that is fantastic plant fertilizer! So ironically they can help your plants grow...

Mary Witzl said...

I am filled with respect and awe for you. I pride myself on being fairly brave in my culinary adventures, but I see I've got a long way to go. Your live your ideals; good for you.

(If you ever run out of slugs, I've got a friend with a massive vegetable garden and enough slugs to stock a couple of big restaurants. Let me know and I'll put you in touch!)

gutterkitty said...

As far as I know ALL slugs secrete that numbing "toxin", not just the black ones. I licked one of the big yellow/green banana slugs at camp and it numbed my tongue like the black ones do. Also the reason for cleaning and cooking them so well, besides the slime is that, if improperly prepared, they can give you meningitis. This is a really awesome page, and I was really happy to find it. A few friends and I just got interested in entomophagy, but it's been hard finding information on it, especially concerning slugs. I did notice that most of the information I DO find comes from the Pacific Northwest, does that mean we're more adventurous that the rest of the country?

Emily said...

Update...
In the years since this post was created, we've done more research, and discovered that the invasive (in our area) dusky arions and leopard slugs are also edible, and, when cooked in seawater, are pretty delicious, too. I have a post up about them on my other blog: Feral Food

hillfarming said...

Excellent post! I had no idea that people ate slugs (aside from some extreme survival purists).
We've got thousands of large black slugs on the subsistence small holding we've just moved to 1000ft up in the hills of Yorkshire. I was thinking of getting ducks to convert the slugs to meat/eggs- but maybe we should just eat the slugs!
Also, can't raw slugs cause encephalitis? It might be worth having a warning up...

Brilliant post!

http://hillfarming.wordpress.com/ - please have a look, we've only had 28 views so far :)

Emily said...

Yes, raw slugs, like many raw foods, can harbour bacteria, which is why we cook most foods. But I don't worry about it, because I expect most people to be cautious. Another precaution is putting the slugs in a habitat (terrarium, bucket, etc.) with nothing but healthy greens for a few days before consuming them. That gives their bodies time to void anything poisonous that they may have eaten, prior to being captured. I wouldn't eat the black slugs you seem to have, though; of course I don't know what they are, but black arions are best avoided, as they harbour a toxin (forget what, exactly, right now...).

It's Just Light said...

You guys are brave! I may have to give these little slimers a try, since there is no shortage of them around here in the redwoods!

Sara McGrath said...

If only my daughter wasn't allergic to mollusks. She has eaten sun-dried earthworm though.

Anonymous said...

A old post but new message. I hope I can get the organs out without problems being that I was following everything up to the VENTRAL SIDE reference but I can try to find more information about it if I ever decide to try these little buggers. The sad part is that most people would shun you if they saw you harvesting food outside about, despite it being the same as what most pay for in the market.