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Whether gardeners use slug pellets, beer traps or the sole of their
shoe, getting rid of molluscs can be a daily chore.

But a snail enthusiast believes gardeners should be growing their own snails for the dinner table, as part of the national drive towards self-sufficiency in tough times.

While many households are happy to adopt a couple of hens for their garden or allotment, Helen Howard set up a company selling edible snail farming kits. She found demand for the delicacy, traditionally favoured by the French, has doubled in the last couple of years.

“There is considerable interest in garden farming,” said Helen, who supplies her edible snails and kits to restaurants and the public.

“People increasingly like the idea of local food and have become more adventurous due to travelling – although some will always be squeamish.”

Any old garden snail, however, will not do.

Helen rears the fruit-fed Helix aspersa maxima edible snail, which takes six months from egg to table. Described as the Gloucester Old Spot Pig of the snail world, they have been bred to grow faster and bigger.

Helen said snails were introduced to Britain by the Romans, while in the Middle Ages monasteries grew their own snails so they could be feasted on during Lent, when eating meat was forbidden.

She added: “Snails are tasty, nutritious and very healthy. I am urging people to put aside their bias and give them a go. This is a chance for gardeners to get their own back!”

The £29.95 snail kits come with dry food for baby snails which later feed on waste fruit and veg as they mature. Go to 8 snailfarm.org.uk. Helen will showcase her snails at The Edible Garden Show in Warwickshire on 16-18 March. Call (0844) 338 8001 or visit www.theediblegardenshow.co.uk for details.