Short history of the trade with Roman Snails
To start with a brief extract from the book by Liese Hailbronner:
"The most different goods were shipped, so for instance barrels filled with
lidded snails (council minutes of March 30, 1624) from the Ulm snail
gardens and destined for the Lent period in Vienna in quantities of
frequently 200,000 pieces. During the transport the sun mustn't have
been too warm lest it should spoil the content so that the barrels would
have burst and the snails had to be left to the fish in the river.
Any such events frequently caused complications between supplier,
forwarder and purchaser so that the first ones insisted on written receipts
Suppliers in the villages around Ulm were located in Bollingen,
Münsingen, Ober- and Unterfahlheim, Glassenhart, Leibi, Nersingen,
Schneckenhofen, and Straß.
In his book "Ulm mit seinem Gebiet" (Ulm and its environment),
Joh. Herk in 1786 wrote: "The most important species is the edible
garden snail. It is raised in snail gardens and fed with cabbage or
snail herbs so that it will grow fat. After in November, around St.Martin's
day the lid has closed the snail will be sold. Every year some 4,000,000 of
those snails are exported, in barrels holding about 10,000 snails each. One
barrel yields a minimum price around Fl25, frequently up to Fl40
(Fl = florin).
The importance of the trade in snails (up to the 19th century) is reflected
by the baroque door frame of a house built in 1739 but destroyed during
the war at Saumarkt No. 1, in 1801 having been owned by the barge
master Joh. Christoph Schwarzmann. Its carving shows an ordinary barge
with two fields with crossed oars, one field with three fish forming a
triangle, and one field with two mighty Roman snails (the doorframe was
saved and stored by the museum).
The Trade in Roman Snails
From "Lehrmeister-Bücherei" by Gisela Kaufmann, 1952
The trade in Roman snails has a history of many centuries. Mainly monks consumed high numbers of snails as for them they replaced meat dishes that were not allowed during the Lent period. From the collection regions on South Germany the Roman snails were shipped to cloisters and duodecimo princedoms in many regions. From Ulm, barges, so-called "Ulmer Schachteln", travelled the Danube onto Vienna. Also many noble owners of manors and castles ordered Roman snails; snail dishes then were quite "in". Previously, France was the biggest buyer of snails from Germany, while meanwhile France is the biggest supplier of Roman snails and supplies Germany and Italy.
In South Germany several big trade companies furnished the collectors with instructions and material for shipping the snails, so for instance
The latter institution also was furnished with a training site for farming Roman snails as well as with a sales agency for breeding animals.
Our organization, the "Institut für Deutsche Schneckenzucht Nersingen "Helix" GmbH will re-establish this traditional branch in Germany, with all its promising chances.
Please visit also the homepage of "Schwäbische Auster".