HISTORICAL INFORMATION FOR THE SNAILS
Snails are one of the oldest types of food in the human diet due to their easy collection from nature but also because of their abundance. The oldest evidence shows that even the 11th millennium BC, during the Neolithic era, people were collecting and consuming snails. In Greece, both in the ancient and in the later years, it appears that snails played an important role in the lives and diet of its residents. Snail shells have been found in excavations in Crete in Lesvos and Santorin. For Cretans, during the Minoan times, snails were among the most eclectic dishes, and also there were on the menu of the ancient island of Thira (Santorin).
Findings of archaeological excavations in Crete and in Thira
Regarding the ways of cooking snails during the Classical years, we do not have enough evidence to draw reliable conclusions. But we can assume that methods will not differ much from those used today: grilled, boiled or cooked in various ways, with vegetables, rice etc. In cooking snails, cuisine cannot be compared with any other in ingenuity and it usually follows the seasonality of various kinds. During spring time the combinations of snails and vegetables are wonderful: with fennel, green beans, wild greens, etc. During the summer period we can combine them with squash, okra, eggplants, etc, while in winter with all kinds of rice and throughout the year with spinach.
Snail fossils from the Petrified Forest of western Lesvos
NUTRITIAN VALUE OF THE SNAIL MEAT
You may not expect that but snails are surprisingly nutritious. Like any animal meat, snails (which sound much more edible when referred to by their French name of escargot) provide a hefty dose of protein, little carbohydrate and some fat. Snails also serve as an excellent source of iron and other essential minerals, such as potassium and phosphorus.
Calories & Protein
A 100gr serving of snails (about 3.5 ounces) provides 90 calories. Most of the calories in a dish of snails come from protein. A serving of snails packs a protein punch, which, while not quite equal to beef or chicken, compares favorably with seafood. A 100gr serving adds 16.5gr of protein to your diet, compared to 30 grams in a serving of white meat chicken and 25gr in a serving of dark meat chicken. A 100gr serving of catfish provides 19gr of protein. A Nigerian study published in the 2009 "International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health" found that snails provided an excellent and inexpensive source of protein and iron for children and young mothers.
If you're following a low carbohydrate diet, both snails and their most frequent accompaniment (melted butter) fit well into your diet as a snack, an appetizer or a meal. A serving of snails contains just 2gr of carbohydrates, while the butter doesn't add a single carb.
Like other animal sources of food, snails do contain fat, although not very much. An entire serving contains just 1.4gr of fat, with slightly more unsaturated than saturated fat. A serving of snails contains 50gr of cholesterol. If you add the butter sauce, you will get extra dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. A tablespoon of butter contains 11gr of fat and 31gr of cholesterol.
Vitamins and Minerals
A 100gr serving supplies 3.5 milligrams of iron. That is more iron than beef, which contains around 4 milligrams of iron in a 6 ounce serving. This equals nearly half of your daily 8 milligram iron requirement if you're male or a postmenopausal woman and about 20% of the 18 milligrams you need if you are a woman of childbearing age. A serving of snails contains about the same amount of potassium as beef, 382 milligrams, as well as 250 milligrams of magnesium, far more than beef, chicken, pork or fish, which provide about 30 milligrams of magnesium.