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Long Island Snail Farm Brings Escargot To East Coast

SOUTHOLD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Escargot is a cooked land snail, a delicacy to the palate.

Now, rather than relying on shipments from France or Spain, the first snail farm has emerged on the east end of Long Island, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reports.

"We would consider ourselves snail wranglers," Taylor Knapp told her.

Inside a Cutchogue greenhouse, almost like a laboratory, he and his wife, Katelyn, are raising snails. Peconic Escargot is the only snail farm on the East Coast.

They have upwards of 15,000 snails and ship 3,000 a week.

Their dream, born in France, was far from an overnight success. Four years of government regulation and oversight meant a containment perimeter had to be built.

"There is no one doing it like this, so it took a lot of trial and error," Taylor said.

Temperatures must be perfect for the eggs hatching in soil, and kept moist. Snails rely on a nutritious, healthy diet, so they're foraging in the fields.

"Things that are not only tasty for humans, but the snails love it too," Taylor said, pointing out mugwort.

After eight months, the snails are ready and the Knapps are popping up on menus all over New York.

"Forever in this country all you could get was canned escargot or maybe frozen, and it's not even close to as good as this product. This is just fantastic," executive chef Greg Ling said.

In Greenport, Industry Standard is among the multiple restaurants creating innovative recipes. The flavor is mild and nutty, the texture is far from rubbery like in a can, and the fresh escargot just melt in your mouth, McLogan reported.

"These are soft and tender. That is the whole idea about it," restaurant manager Bryan Villanti said. "They are fresh farm-to-fork."

The USDA says because the snails are a non-native species, they must be secured to prevent them from escaping and becoming an "environmental pest."

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