Building Your Vocabulary, One Word at a Time
heliculture (hell ih cult yer) n the art, science, practice and folklore of raising snails
About a year and a half ago, we adopted a snail we found on a plant at Sylvandale’s Garden Supply here in Redway. They were going to kill it, so we decided to give it another lease on life, and took it home as a pet. For a while, we kept it in a big jar with cheesecloth over the lid, and fed it lettuce leaves.
Amy misted it with a squirt bottle every day, which usually motivated it to come out of its shell and climb around for a while. After a while, it seemed lonely. I don’t exactly know why it seemed that way to us, but we went back to Sylvandale’s to see if we could find another one. We did, and they hit it off immediately. We often found them resting right next to each other, shell to shell.
When we just had one snail, we called it “Snail Friend”, but when we added the new one, we named them Simon and Garfunkle. We chose those names because of how quiet our new pets are, which reminded us of Simon and Garfunkle’s hit song “The Sounds of Silence”. At first Garfunkle, aka “Snail Friend”, the one we had the longest, was much larger than Simon, but they both grew rapidly.
Eventually we found a nice little aquarium with a fitted lid and transferred the snails into it. They really seemed to like the new digs, which had a nice layer of soil on the bottom, a couple rocks, and a piece of bark to create a diagonal ramp from the bottom corner to the top corner of their enclosure. They continued to grow, and Simon eventually grew to be the larger of the two.
One evening, about two months ago, we noticed them necking rather enthusiastically. We knew they liked each other, but this got to be embarrassing to watch, so we put their aquarium away and gave them some privacy. About a week or so ago, we discovered dozens of tiny gray ovoid shaped masses about an eighth of an inch long, all over the inside of the aquarium. Baby snails! We have dozens of baby snails. Now what?
We checked out a book from the library about raising snails for food, titled, cryptically enough, Raising Snails for Food by Jacques Baratou, subtitled, “How to Make Friends With Garden Pests and Develop Them Into The Darlings of the Gourmet’s Table. We’ve done pretty well at the “making friends with garden pests” part, but I’m not sure we’re ready to “develop the darlings”, so to speak. However, I did discover this great word, heliculture.
So, as we weigh our options at this critical juncture, and decide whether or not to join the distinguished ranks of the world’s heliculturalists, let me share a few photos of the proud new parents, and their babies, as well as a few facts I’ve learned about snail ranching:
Snails have the most complicated sexual apparatus in the animal kingdom, and they are all hermaphroditic
Snail ranchers ride specially bred horses that don’t run very fast, but are very careful about where they put their hooves down.
In France, snails have the right-of-way. Occasionally, french snail herders will have to cross a major road with their herd. This can tie up traffic for hours.
Snail rodeos, where snail ranchers show off their snail-handling skills, and compete for prizes, have become high-stakes sporting events that draw competitors from all over the world. However, few spectators have the patience to sit through a snail rodeo, and as a result, the sport remains extremely obscure, outside of helicultural circles.