Snails (shelled mollusks) are related to clams and oysters except they live on land and not in the ocean. There are two basic types of snails: the Helix snail, or European land snail with spiral shells, and the Achatine, or Asian snail that lives in swampy areas. Our Ambrosia snails are of the Achatine type and come from Indonesia. Snail meat is used for escargot and is usually served in its shell with a special sauce that includes garlic, butter, wine and spices. Our Ambrosia snails are cooked in brine with spices, herbs and vegetables before canning, thus they have a savory flavor right out of the can.
Snails have been extremely scarce during the past two years in Indonesia. Packers normally source snails during the rainy season that lasts from November through March. Snails are obtained from the wild – they aren’t farmed like most of the European Helix snails are, and are therefore very sensitive to weather conditions. Last year the rainy season was very short and this year it was extremely tough, with lots of flooding in the area snails are usually found. One of the largest packers claimed that they couldn’t obtain enough raw materials to run the factory most days. They usually shut down the facilities during the dry season but this year they are planning to run longer and just keep packing as raw material comes in to fill orders. Since there are so many unfilled orders we can’t expect this situation to ease up until after next year’s rainy season.