A Waltham woman is building one of the UK’s few mollusc farms with the aim of selling them for food and cosmetics.
Sandie Hudson (54) is currently nurturing 75,000 snails after acting on what she calls ‘a lightbulb moment’ while chatting to a friend.
Her partner, Paul (52) built all the infrastructure for the venture - including an enclosed growing area measuing 150m by 50m - on their land close to the village.
And she has filled it with thousands of snails she bought from France.
Mature ones are being sold in good numbers already to local pubs such as the Geese and Fountain at Croxton Kerrial and the Martin’s Arms, at Colston Bassett.
She also plans eventually to extract the slime and sell it to cosmetic companies because the amino acids present act to rejuvenate the skin.
A former phyisotherapist and a bee-keeping inspector for Defra in her previous careers, Sandie is enjoying the challenge of her new business despite having to learn the ropes as she goes along.
She told the Melton Times: “I wasn’t sure what to do next but I am an outdoor person so it would have had to be something outdoors.
“Then a friend said she was growing snails in her back garden and it was a real lightbulb moment for me.
“It is very labour intensive though because you spend hours and hours feeding and watering the snails every day.”
Melton Molluscs is, Sandie believes, one of only three operating in the UK.
They are more commonplace in Europe, particularly in France and eastern european countries.
She has a 20-week window to grow them from babies and they also mate and produce offspring when they mature.
The life of the snails can be prolonged in the chiller and they hibernate for three months and can live for up to eight years.
Sandie, a former ladies’ captain at Melton Golf club, said: “Snails are the old Roman protein. They are a superfood without fat and are high in amino acids.
“I never used to enjoy the taste when I ate them in this country because when the escargot are brought over from France they are in brine or oil.
“There is no comparison with the taste of the fresh snails which I am producing.”
Sandie intends to sell them for food only locally, to delis, farmshops and pubs, and they are already on the menu at her golf club.