It all started in 2015. We – Andrii Dziuban, Artem Khmyz and Orest Davydko – have launched many projects together, including gastronomic ones. We were looking for a product for a long time that would become an anchor for a unique establishment in Lviv until our business partners gave us a package of grapevine snails one day – just to have it a try.
We had a friendly meeting at the bar, we gave the package to a chef, and he later treated us to Burgundy snails – a traditional dish of French cuisine, one of the easiest ways to cook snails. The product seemed so interesting to us that we went to France – literally in a snail tour, and very quickly realized that there are many dishes made of snail meat and they are very popular in Western Europe. So in a while, we opened Tante Sophie café escargot – a French restaurant with recognizable blue doors, where every girl who came to Lviv in the last two years have a picture on her Instagram:)
For about a year, we bought snails that the collectors brought for our establishment. However, a snail that grew up under a bush is always a lottery. You will never guess what it will taste like, what elasticity and texture its meat will be. Subsequently, working with our wild snail supplier stopped being fine with us, and we said goodbye. We were left with a room with snail processing equipment, and we thought, why don’t we start breeding snails ourselves? That way, we would have the estimated number of snails – and always of a stable quality, because we can choose a breed of mollusk for breeding and feed it with selected feed.
We went to Europe again – visited farms in Poland and tried snails of various breeds in Italy at the snails festival (there is one there 🙂
Our choice was Helix Aspersa Muller, better known worldwide as petit gris – the “little gray snail”. This type of snail is preferred by most chefs because of its delicate taste and pleasant meat texture.
Thus, we received training from European farmers and in March 2017 brought the first breeder’ stock of that “Muller” to Ukraine. Breeding snails is not a difficult thing, but we managed to make a few mistakes anyway that we learned only a year after our farming began – when we harvested the first crop that was half as much expected.
We began working that issue out and realized that a power surge in the building came into play, where the reproducer matured in the spring. This could cost us the loss of a large number of future snails that did not withstand the cold during the day.
When the snails grew older and it was time to let them go into the field, we put them in one corner – thinking that the snails would crawl over and evenly occupy the entire area. Instead, the mollusks remained in the same place in the vast majority, due to which they lacked planted lettuce for the whole season. In addition, we did not attach importance to the size of the dry feed fractions that were fed to snails all summer. We ordered it from Purina, this feed was specifically developed and manufactured for our Muller – perfectly balanced in composition and environmentally friendly. This feed makes the snail meat tasty, tender, and of predictable quality. However, not in the case when the feed is too large for a snail, which physically could not handle in the required amount.
So when the autumn came and we started to count the yield, it turned out that most of our snails did not grow to the size we needed. Next season, we will have two harvests – early in the summer when the teenage snails are ripe, and a scheduled one in the fall.
This experience gave us the opportunity to adjust the snail-growing guide so that our partners do not repeat our mistakes. We are currently working with Ukrainian farmers on outsourcing and scaling this line of business. Tante Snails Farm can be purchased on a turnkey basis – we provide a breeder’ stock, equipment, feed, accompanying materials and guarantee buying back the snail crop at the end of the season at the request of the farmers.