Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Little Things: My favourite way to eat slugs

The Web shrieks with hysterical rantings about how awful slugs are, accompanied by "Buy two get one free" offers on high powered chemical cocktails and "natural" remedies to rid you of their scourge forever.

This blog does not swim with the tide though, so I won't try sell you anything and I will not join the slugophobic chorus. Quite the opposite in fact - I intend to rant about how wonderful and important slugs are to Sustainable Human Flourishing.

I'll also explain how you too can add delicious-tasting slugs to your low-impact, sustainable, organic diet...

I first hit upon the idea of eating slugs when looking for a natural way to control them in our little organic garden. None of the natural controls were really working and I found that the best way to get rid of them was to go out at night with a torch and just pick them up. This left me with the problem of what to do with my captives though. It seemed such a waste to just kill them, so I did a bit more research.

So I changed my Google question from "how do I kill slugs?" to "what are slugs?", and a whole new world opened up for me... Amongst many other fascinating sluggy facts, I learned that nature has created the slug as the ultimate protein pack!

A slug’s purpose in life is to be an ultra-efficient means of transforming leaves, vegetables, weeds, dogshit, and other awful, rotting stuff into pure protein - and then to be eaten. A slug is perfectly designed for this purpose - they eat practically anything that is or was alive, and their slowness makes them easy pickings for small mammals and birds.

They are so good at this protein creation task in fact, that our friend the slug pretty much underpins the entire animal food chain.

So, like a truly dedicated TreeHugger, I decided to do the natural thing. I decided to eat the slugs from my garden.

I’m quite partial to snails after all, and even my four year-old son loves escargot in a garlic butter sauce; surely I can do something similarly gourmet with our slugs, I thought. On a good night, I can pick half a kilo of them from our little garden - with the lowered crop damage and increased vegetable output, our family will never go hungry again! Sounds like a perfect plan! I'm a genius!

Unfortunately Google advises against eating slugs as we do escargot - Apparently they taste awful unless you carefully remove their slime and digestive glands in a rather unpleasant and fiddly process. More worryingly though, slugs may also carry parasitic worms that can cause meningitis in humans.

With a little more thought and research though, I came up with a very simple preparation technique that makes slugs perfectly safe for human consumption. More importantly, they taste absolutely gorgeous! Here’s how you can do it too!

Step 1 - Prepare your slug-hunting kit:
The most indispensable items in a slug hunter’s kit are:
1) A high-powered torch. I highly recommend a white LED - the light is really clean and picks up the shiny slug trails well.
2) A container with a tight-fitting lid. Any old takeout container is perfect.
3) A waterproof but tight-fitting glove. Find one with fine, flexible fingers that allows good control - You need a glove because fresh slug slime is truly yuck. It is gooey and sticky all at once and is obviously the inspiration behind the ectoplasmic residue in Ghostbusters
Venkman has been slug hunting again
Step 2 - Collect your slugs: After the sun has set, the dew has settled, and the ground is cooling, grab your slugging kit and head out to your garden. The collection bit is quite easy - just pick them up and drop into your collection bucket.

Step 3 - Store your live slugs carefully to keep them fresh and tender: We want to be as humane as possible to our slugs between capture and breakfast. Make sure they have plenty of air and also plenty of food for their last hours. It is also important to store them somewhere dark and cool - slugs really don’t like light, and when the sun comes up it can get hot very quickly in the container if you leave them in the morning sun.

Step 4 - Clean your slugs: When you check on your slugs in the morning the container will be a slimy mess, but hopefully your slugs will be happy and healthy.

The first thing you should do is give the slugs a really good rinse. This removes the worst of the slime, poo, eggs, etc - an old sieve or colander will help with this.

Step 5 - Prepare them for eating: Add your freshly rinsed slugs to a bowl with an equal quantity of cracked corn, wheat, sunflower seeds. Mix them gently until evenly coated.

Now comes the most important step… This is also the step that squeamish amongst you may struggle with. My wife hates it when I do this - but she refuses to kill anything, except occasionally mosquitoes!

Step 6 - Feed the mix to your chickens: If you don’t have chickens, get some! It is not natural to have a garden, no matter how small without at least two chickens!

I am deadly serious - living with chickens will change your life. I have a post on chickens brewing, but I'm really struggling to do them justice.

Step 7 - Wait: In around two days, you should find a clutch of eggs that are quite likely to be larger than usual. Take these eggs and prepare them fresh in your favourite recipe - you will probably note that the yolks are also larger and brighter yellow than usual, and that the shells may be stronger than you’ve ever seen (especially if you collected some snails with your slugs.)

Step 8 - Eat your slugs:
So to close where we started, what is my favourite way to eat slugs? In a smoked salmon quiche with leeks and capers - yum.

Nothing is wasted in nature. Humans are a part of nature, yet our "intellect" easily fools us into believing that we can live outside nature somehow. Use this technique and I guarantee that your favourite egg recipe will taste better than ever. Not only because of its increased protein count, but also because you have used your uniquely human intellect to gently nudge nature to your advantage rather than trying to subvert her. Attempts to control and bend nature to our will inevitably result in waste.

Notes and important caveats:
1) This is a natural, organic technique - If you’ve been using artificial, chemical slug baits, please don’t try this because you may kill your chickens or poison your family via their eggs. Please clear away any chemicals that may be tainting your sluggy protein packs, then allow a few weeks (or longer, depending on the chemicals you've been using) before feeding your slugs to your chickens.
2) Make sure that your eternally grateful chickens have plenty of clean, fresh water, because it can help to wash the slime down.
3) If you collected any particularly large snails with your slugs, then you may need to crack the shells yourself to make it a bit easier for your chickens.
4) If your chickens are conditioned to only eat grains and don't immediately recognise slugs as food, then check out this video from that will help you train them to eat slugs.


  1. my chooks turn their noses up at slugs. The do love a whitefly infested red cabbage though. And termites.

    1. Yeah, they love bugs of any kind don't they :-) You're obviously spoling them though if they don't recognise slugs as food Matt.
      Did you try all the tricks above and in the video? Wash them, mix them with grains, maybe try feeding them less other food for a while, start them on small ones...
      Maybe try in a competitive environment for a bit... Get them into a bit of a feeding frenzy to the point where they're fighting each other for some other food, then drop a slug in occasionally. It will probably disappear before they notice and they'll get the taste for them :-)
      It is better to start them young like in the video, but I reckon with some persistence you can teach an old chook new tricks :-) Stick with it for a week and see how you go.