First Commercial Snail Farm in Ireland

As food innovation moves forward so does other countries’ culture regarding food. We never really turn our noses up at something different until it’s placed in front of us or perhaps as kids we were forced to eat what was put in front of us whether we liked it or not. Nevertheless we do choose what we eat depending on our own personal preferences.

As time has moved on, many nationalities have made Ireland their home (The odd Kiwi comes to mind) which brings their own styles of cooking, traditions and cuisine. Most of the time food is based on climate, history and availability of produce and dishes.

This is great innovation for me as different ingredients creep into the Irish food stream giving consumers, chefs, local markets something new and creative to work with and opening up national and international markets for food producers to create a business and a passionate life style.

This is what Eva Milka and Eoin Jenkinson have achieved

Eva and Eoin

I have had the pleasure of knowing Eva for a couple of years now through business and as I drove up her long driveway in Carlow I knew this was going to be an interesting lunch and that a few snail stories would evolve.

From Poland, Eva arrived on Irish shores almost 14 years ago, she made Kilkenny her home and worked locally in hospitality waitressing tables. Hospitality has always been a great way of meeting people and this is where Eva found Eoin her partner who was born & bred in Skerries, Dublin and comes from a long line of bakers (3rd generation).

The Beginnings

This is the starting point of the story that amazed me. Eva being a snail lover, loves a good snail as a snack now and then (as we all do), and she started to breed her own snails in her bedroom in Kilkenny as a hobby.

So going forward from her bedroom hobby to 2014, Eva and Eoin have carved their way into the Irish and international markets with their own snail farm in Garryhill, County Carlow with their brand ‘Gaelic Escargot’.

Snail Farming

They have achieved a lot with a food product that would not necessarily work in a lot of countries’ cuisine but does show that it’s working in many avenues for these two snail enthusiasts who offer food tours around their snail farm. They also sell to snail friendly countries in the EU – their little jars of picked snails seem to be finding their way into shops and homes along with Michelin star restaurants such as Liath Restaurant in Blackrock Dublin using ‘Gaelic Escargot’.

With all this success, hard work would have to be part of the driving force behind this business, but also an amazing amount of knowledge bringing this to the people of Ireland.

Eva and Eoin explain

“It’s been hard work doing what we do, but the Irish climate is perfect for breading snails. As climate change has complicated countries weather patterns it’s made snail farming harder in places like Spain and other countries where farms have closed down due to heatwaves”.

“We started using Italian breeding methods, but found we had to adapt and learn Irish methods of breeding snails due to the Irish environment. Free range methods are also used with natural outdoor cycles along with some breeding methods indoors”.

“We have also adopted alternative farming methods to create other revenue streams as the mucus is used for the cosmetic industry, snail caviar and of course the snail as a whole”.

Over 300,000 tonnes of snails are sold each year worldwide with the Spanish, French and Italians being the largest markets in the world for consuming snails.

Eva is also responsible for teaching her knowledge to others that have now opened their own farms, from where Eva purchases their snails when needed to sell through her network of buyers.

Snails as a Household Food Item

Apart from the great company and lunch Eva and Eoin made me, I left Gaelic Escargot in County Carlow thinking what I had just witnessed. It dawned on me that these two amazing people had just created a food that is low carb, high in protein, low calorie and has micro acids that are good for the human body.

Could this be something we substitute once a week in our daily households in Ireland or should this be part of our stable diet every week as we head toward a heathier eating lifestyle in Ireland? It ticks the Keto box, MSG, Dairy, and Gluten Free and perhaps snails are the world’s best kept secret.

As I said at the start of this publication if snails were placed for example in front of us for dinner you would probably turn your nose up at them, but if you were a child and made to eat them you wouldn’t know any different especially if you didn’t know what they were. The twist here is the education and making them part of the Irish food retail market even if it’s a specialty item or perhaps as a supplement.

Either way there is a market for snails in Ireland and abroad and I believe that Eva and Eoin’s passion and hard work will carry the success beyond all expectations.