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July 6, 2010 > Pat Kite's Garden: The romantic snail

Pat Kite's Garden: The romantic snail

By Pat Kite

I have been trying to find something charming to say about snails. So far, one positive is in the Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Book that I got at Kaiser. Six large snails in garlic butter have 200 calories, 10 grams of fat and only 4 grams of carbohydrate. Of course there's no specification as to what type of snail this is gourmet-wise.

There are over 35,000 species of Gastropod, or "stomach foot." These include land, hedge, marshland, pond, river, sand, and water. Of this batch, the land snails come under the category of Pulmonata. Why? The water-type has water-breathing gills. The Pulmonata have lost these gills over the eons. They have an air-breathing lung. Perhaps you don't find this exciting? Then consider some of the exotic names for various land-dwelling snails.

There are Strawberry Snails, Garlic Glass Snails, Hairy Snails, Rock Snails, and Chartreuse Snails. Then, of course, there is our very own Helix aspersa, also called the Common or Garden snail. Personally I am not fond of garden snails, even if they are romance symbols. It seems like while in the exciting process of courtship, each snail [being both male and female in one] shoots chalky darts into the body of its chosen partner in the quest for genetic diversity.

Canadian scientist Ron Chase has spent 30 years studying snail reproduction. "Love dart snails were known to the ancient Greeks," Chase states," and it wouldn't be surprising to find that they influenced the creation of the Cupid myth." Speaking of myths, there is one from Indonesia called "The Golden Snail."

It seems Prince Raden Putra and Princess Dewi Limaran were happily wedded. But one day the Princess saw a snail. "Yuck," she said, throwing the snail into the river. The snail was really a powerful witch who didn't like being river tossed. So the witch changed Dewi into a golden snail and threw her into the water. Dewi floated along until an old woman caught her in fishing net. The woman was surprised to see a golden snail, so she took it home. Every night from then on, the woman's house was super clean.

One night the old woman peeked to see who was doing this. She saw the golden snail change into a beautiful lady. "How can I help you?" the rescuer offered. " I need to hear music from a golden gamelan," the princess replied. The rescuer went to Prince Raden Putra who had been looking everywhere for his wife. He prayed very hard, and the Indonesian gods gave him this special holy musical instrument. The Prince played it for the golden snail, the Princess turned into a beautiful lady again and the rescuer old woman moved into the royal palace and lived there happily ever after. It is a charming tale to consider as you contemplate your garden snail eating a favorite plant.

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