Producer of the Month: Sophie Wharton, Aylesbury Escargots
The delightful Sophie has spent the past fortnight harvesting the remaining 340,000 free range snails from this year's crop. Having produced 1.7 tonnes of the mollusc in 2012 she and her husband Mike have already reached beyond 3 tonnes this year. Incroyable! I hear you cry… But would you believe that even this vast amount may not be enough to satisfy the never-ending queues of British customers that include eateries, retail shops, and individuals all craving this low-fat, protein-rich, earthy yet salty meat.
Yes BRITISH customers. The British consumer may have been slower than the snails themselves to take to these little beauties but the realisation that they are a delicacy has finally dawned on us. Well it is in their name, after all - GASTROpod. Ideal for canapés or as an accompaniment to beef and game, snail meat is becoming increasingly popular. Not to mention the snails' eggs, which Sophie refers to as Escargot Pearls.
The Escargot Pearls are sold in jars, whilst the snails themselves are gently braised by Sophie before sale. Sophie and Mike are also hoping to have a range of oven ready products on sale in supermarkets in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, put an order in now before it is too late for this year.
A note to parents/godparents - if it's something you want the children to try, and enjoy, then perhaps don't take them to the cinema this half-term… Dreamworks new snail-themed film 'Turbo' might not be the thing to encourage them to eat molluscs for supper.
- What do you enjoy most about rearing snails ?
The most amazing thing about rearing snails is seeing the tiny little egg morph into a hatchling. Quite stunning. Actually everything about rearing snails amazes me every day. I am for ever going 'wow, look at this!' - it's a continuous surprise. It's almost like Christmas every day. Under each leaf you turn in the park you don't know what you will find, from a snail with a special shell to a monster size snail=prize breeder! The quantity they eat is incredible and how fast they consume it. Our Free range park is eating 500kg of food per week! Every day you will see something new.
- What do you enjoy the least?
Finding a damaged snail. They are all so precious. We have a snail hospital for our damaged snails, where they receive extra TLC and a name. They remain there until they are fixed up and ready to re-join the group.
- Why should we buy British produce?
Quite simply British is best! Farmed animals in UK have a far better life style than in other countries, which is shown by the quality of British produce.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
The biggest achievement is establishing and successfully running our free range snail farm.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food and if you were Prime Minister what would you do to encourage more people to buy British?
My prediction is British food will take a huge leap forward in the next two years. Already this year melons and apricots have been harvested in this country. Old varieties of herbs such as mint, and vegetables such as celery, have been re-introduced. We, as a nation, want to be more self-sufficient. People's tastes are developing and we are becoming more adventurous with home-grown food.
If I were Prime Minister I would impose a weight tax on grocery shopping. Any item weight you buy that is British would be Tax free, anything from abroad would have a tax added to it by its weight. Good for the environment, good for the economy.
- Best budget tip?
Don't ever buy sauces - it is easy, simple and far cheaper to make your own.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Know your Facts - Reduce your tax - Buy British.
- What other British food producers do you rate?
- What's on the menu this evening?
Home-made lamb burgers - lamb from our local Halal shop.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Email email@example.com or call 07575 416994 or visit our web site.