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Forager collects highly invasive species at beach for free, delicious dinner: 'I love some escargot'

"People look at me weird when I forage and grab whatever is edible."

"People look at me weird when I forage and grab whatever is edible."

Photo Credit: TikTok

One TikTok content creator recently showed her 108,000 followers how to forage a free snack at the beach by collecting one little-known invasive species.

"Just in this little tiny … 50-foot span of rocks, there's probably at least 100,000 of these little periwinkle snails," Amelia from Black Sun Farm (@theoriginalmealchan) said. Because the snails are invasive, she added: "There is no license needed to get them, so, yeah, you should eat these."

@theoriginalmealchan Foraging wild foods at the beach is easy once you know what to look for! I have been eating periwinkle snails that I pick up at the beach for years. Most people don't want to do the work to pick them out of the shells but I can assure you they're delicious! #foraging #beachfood #wildfood #periwinkles #eatingsnails #snails ♬ original sound - Amelia from Black Sun Farm

To some in the United States, eating snails might not sound appetizing. But snails are a delicacy in France, where they are known as escargot. Once cooked, Amelia explained, they are not that different from a clam.

There is some debate about when periwinkle snails were introduced to the Northeast, according to On The Water. The two predominant theories are that they either came over by accident attached to ship hulls or were introduced intentionally by settlers as a food source. 

It is also easy to get confused between the common periwinkle snail (Littorina littorea) and the two native species of periwinkles, the smooth periwinkle (Littorina obtusata) and the smaller rough periwinkle (Littorina saxatilis), as Foster's Daily Democrat explained. However, because the common periwinkle is invasive, most periwinkles you find at the beach are likely to be the invasive variety. 

"The common periwinkle can be identified by its striped tentacles and a spire (the pointy end of the shell) that isn't as sharp as that of the rough periwinkle, but not as smooth as that of the smooth periwinkle," the Foster's article explained. "Smooth periwinkles are very smooth, they have a flattened spire and they can be a variety of colors — solid yellow to striped to brown, colors that all camouflage them nicely in the rockweeds they call home. Rough periwinkles look a lot like common periwinkles but are smaller and bumpier."

Not only do the invasive snails provide a free source of food, but foraging for them helps restore balance to marine ecosystems and conserve the environment. 

Several communities across the U.S. have recently held wild cook-off competitions where participants catch invasive fish or forage for invasive plants and turn them into delicious dishes, bringing people together while helping to rid the local ecosystems of problematic species. Eat the Invaders has more information and even recipes.

Collecting periwinkle snails is just another opportunity to have fun in the sun and get a free meal while you're at it. 

Amelia's TikTok followers were grateful for the information, and some were even excited to eat some snails.

"My grandparents used to do this!" wrote one commenter. "Didn't know they [were] invasive, now I don't feel as bad."

"I love that you do this. People look at me weird when I forage and grab whatever is edible," wrote another.

"I love some escargot," wrote a third.

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