Why Slugs? A short and simple explanation for why slugs are beneficial to your garden and the earth
Fun Fact: Fast Slugs
We might consider slugs slow, but apparently the Spotted Leopard Slug is one of the fastest slugs in the world, clocking in at 6 inches per minute or 1 foot per hour.
Slugs, snails and other gooey pests have a purpose on this earth too
It's really easy to say a "weed is just a weed" and a "pest is just a pest" and leave it at that. The only problem with that sort of ignorance is that it leaves gaps in your knowledge that could make or break the difference in your own health and the health of our dear planet earth.
It is the very same type of ignorance that has lead to the destruction of much of our planet. Most everything we've created or destroyed, started out with "good intentions", though because there were gaps in knowledge at the time, we didn't realize our actions would have such huge global consequences.
An obvious example is with Bees. For the longest time they were thought only to be vicious pests. Over time though, we realized they are an extremely important insect that we specifically cannot live without. If bees go extinct, we'll loose more than half of our global crops and be unable to produce enough food to supply the world, without creating some crazy expensive means of pollinating large scale crops of food. Sure, there are other bugs that help with pollination, but bees by far are one of the most important.
Bees are often killed by humans under the belief that they're "just pests", and because of certain irresponsible groups like Monsanto and Phillip Morris, all forms of bees are nearing extinction, including the most important Honey Bee.
And while people are certainly awaking to the plight of the bees and other beings that were formerly considered "just pests", I want to do my part and prevent the mistreatment and death of other insects, animals and beings that many people consider to be "just pests".
In this case, this hub is going to cover the Slug and some of it's cousins. Not in extreme detail, but in enough detail so that you can walk away from this hub understand more about the purpose of slugs, how they can help and harm your garden and in what ways you can learn to strike a balance with them that is mutually beneficial and not harmful to the earth.
Did you know that slugs are hermaphrodites? That means that they have both male and female sex organs. When they mate (which is more interesting to watch than you might think), they approach each in a mating dance that transfers sperm from one slug to the other, fertilizing the eggs that they will later lay.
This was discovered by several european scientists with an eccentric interest in our slimy friends, in the late 15th century and then later published sometime in the 16th century.
What is a "slug"?
This will be short and sweet, and possibly necessary for anyone who isn't clear yet, as to what exactly a slug "is" besides a slimy crawly creature.
To be specific, a slug is a type of (invertebrate) spineless "mollusc" without a shell. They are, in fact, just snails that have a thicker top layer of skin than their shell-encased friends. Other than the difference in shell though, slugs and snails, for all intents and purposes, are the same thing.
And just to be clear, what we know simply as a "slug" are shell-free snails found only on land and more commonly near gardens, on farms and in very moist environments. Slugs that are found in water are either "fresh water slugs" or "sea slugs". The only one who can hold the title of "just a slug" are those lovely ones that live on the mainland.
Interestingly enough for a curious mind, slugs get their name from the old english word "slugge" which was originally used to describe a lazy person, which is believed to have etymological roots in the Scandinavian words "slogga" (to be slow or lazy) and "slue" (to be "relaxed" or to "hang loosely") which also happens to be where we got the word "sludge".
Did you know that slugs have FOUR noses?
By most human standards, they wouldn't be considered 'noses' in the way we think about them, but these proboscises are definitely used for 'smelling'. Slugs use them to smell for potential poisonous chemicals in water and food, though that's not all. The reason they have four noses, is because they use them for more than just sniffing out good food and water. They also use their noses to smell heat and light.
Meet my pet slug?
Many people actually keep slugs as pets, and apparently, they can do quite well in captivity when under the care of meticulous slug lovers. If you've been looking for an interesting new pet, check out this online guide to the care and husbandry of your common garden slug.
What do slugs "DO"?
You might be surprised, but this is actually one of the hottest search trends and has been for some time. Though it markedly saw an increase along with a higher interest in organic and natural gardening methods. We humans may be slow at times, but we catch on pretty quick and it's kind of a no-brainer to go with organic gardening over more modern methods.
If you're like me, you may have searched for the "purpose of slugs" because you have a garden or want to start a homestead and you want the best possible "ecosystem" a person could have in your area. Generally, that means letting nature do it's thing as long as it doesn't promote disease or other health issues.
For nearly 100 years, most gardeners have been focused mostly on the asthetic or monetary value, which has lent to the indiscriminate genocide of anything that appeared to be a "pest" or "weed".
In fact, until I found myself interested in local herbology and foraging, I was one of those people who just squashed anything that seemed like a pest and pulled up anything that seemed like a weed. Now, as I look back, I wish I hadn't done any of that. Not just because I believe all creatures and beings on this planet have the right to be here as much as we do, but because there were plenty of interesting and uber-beneficial plants and bugs around here that are now gone because I shamelessly killed them at the time.
Now, while I would love to go into immense detail of what I have learned, I also don't want to take up your entire day with this hub about slugs, so let's get back to the main topic of this module, which is to explain what exactly it is that slugs "do".
Some people seem to be under the impression that all slugs do is eat your beloved plants and then become accidental shoe lubrication. It's easy to believe this and never seek more knowledge, but that knowledge is vital and slugs, like all creatures, have a purpose.
Specifically, slugs have 3 main "purposes" in their lives, which are:
- Recycling plant and animal waste and leftovers - Believe it or not, one of the most important responsibilities slugs have, is to recycle plant and animal matter. What's that? You mean slugs are actually helping your garden? THAT'S RIGHT! In fact, all though it might seem invasive and rude at the moment, slugs are like maggots in the sense that they are more likely to go after plants that are already damaged (in ways our senses can't sense), diseased or about to rot. So if you find yourself with a "slug problem", keep in mind that it might not actually be the slugs that are the 'problem'. It's more likely that they are simply a symptom of a greater problem with soil or gardening methods. Slugs are scavengers by nature, and are more likely to go after fallen plant pieces, cardboard and dead animals before they'd head over to healthy crop or pretty flower. Though the thing to remember is that slugs are strong survivors, and are actually one of evolutions more adaptable developments. If slugs find themselves in an environment that is perfect for them in terms of moisture and plentiful hiddy places, they are more than happy to chow down on healthy plants. They are also generous eaters, as they grow and reproduce quickly, which means the more they eat the more they can proliferate. Slugs definitely LOVE to eat, which is part of why they got lumped in the "pest" category in the first place. They absolutely love fruits and vegetables that are ready to drop and rot. They also love fungi including mold and mushrooms and are great for keeping a check on any deadly species of either you might have in your yard. Slugs also enjoy anything that is rotting, dying or decomposing, which is why you'll often find them clinging tight to your garbage cans. It's a slugs primary function to help with the decomposition of all waste on the earth, which is why organic gardeners often encourage slugs and snails to party in the compost bin. In that way, they can be lumped together with other 'decomposition laborers' like maggots/grubs, flies, hornets/wasps, ants, rodents, coyotes, racoons and certain birds. These types of earthly beings could be considered to be Mother Nature's Janitorial Squad". And in this honorable role they make sure that seeds get spread farther and in better locations, and the rest becomes beneficial fertilizer for those seeds.
- Regulating plants, bugs and other slugs - A secondary responsibility of slugs is to regulate over-abundance. Anything in excess results in a negative. Plants, animals and insects are certainly not excluded from this rule. Once you have too much of anything, you have a problem and slugs are more than willing to do their part to help out with that, including becoming a predator themselves. Which is weird, isn't it? It's slightly strange to think of a slug as a mighty (and slimy) warrior of it's world, but they certainly can be. Some of the slugs favorite "live" meals are earth worms, In fact, slugs are so determined to do their jobs right, that there are certain species of slugs that specifically eat other slugs. And all slugs are known to turn cannibal anytime a friend or family members dies. Waste not, want not, I suppose. The Ghost Slug is one of the most notorious of the predatory land slugs and it even has a very sharp set of teeth for quickly devouring it's prey. Getting back on track, as stated above, slugs play the role of "mother natures regulators". They aren't just there to clean up, they are there to prevent messes as well. Interestingly enough, if it weren't for creatures like slugs, we'd have a much larger blackberry and raspberry problem than we do now, and anyone who lives near those types of invasive vines, knows that is really saying something. They are already a plant known to quickly take over miles of land in no time (when not managed) and to have a greater problem with them would be nearly impossible. Sadly, the slug is rarely recognized for the masterful art of regulation, since they are most often found "regulating" on farms and in gardens.
- To be food for predators - It may not seem like an important role to us or even to the slug itself, but becoming food is just as important as eating food. In this world, all creatures are both predator and prey (even if they don't hunt or hide); it strikes a balance amongst all things. In this case, slugs are often a main staple for birds, coyotes, moles, badgers, hedgehogs, mice, rats, dogs, cats, frogs. owls, snakes, racoons and yes, even humans. Generally, people prefer to only eat certain types of 'snails' voluntarily, though that isn't always the case. Native American tribes used to consider them a main staple in North America, and there many parts of the world where slugs are still considered a delicacy. It's also very well known amongst survivalists that a boiled slug is a fantastic meal that will help you survive. Slugs fit the perfect 101 status of a great survival food because they found just about everywhere (including desserts), they are super easy to catch, full of water and extremely nutritious. In fact, for the people who can stomach such a slimy meal, slugs can offer many benefits including aiding in weight loss, lowering inflammation and even reversing the effects of aging. One slug holds more protein than your average cheeseburger, and they are loaded with Iron, Antioxidants, Potassium, Fatty Acids and Sodium. This is part of why they are so valuable in the animal kingdom as food.
Do you think slugs are "just pests"?
Slug Folk Remedy #1: Wart Cure
In some cultures, it is believed that slugs can cure you of warts. To do this, a person only needs to let a black european slug crawl all over their wart(s), then hang the slug up where it is in direct sunlight. As the slug shrivels up and dies, so should your wart...
Slugs and snails are part of the "gastropod" species, which means "stomach foot". This makes sense as a snail has only a head, stomach and one foot (I bet you thought it was a tail and that they crawled on their stomachs!)
Slug Folk Remedy #2: Cure for Anemia
A folk remedy that has survived the times, is that a diet of raw slugs will cure a person of Anemia. And while the original remedy might be incorrect, the theory is not invalid. Slugs are rich in protein and IRON. Anemia is an extreme lack of iron or a deficiency in the bodies ability to produce iron, making this remedy almost correct. The only correction it really needs though is that you want cooked slugs and you want to avoid poisonous slugs.
Merlin may or may not have really said it first, but Issac Newton gets the credit...
Save the slug!
As if there weren't enough reasons to be nice to slugs listed above, here's a few more interesting things to consider before you squish that slug....
- If modern evolutionary theories are correct, at one time, we were slugs. Sure, you've never been a slug in your life (sluggish maybe, but not a true slug), but it's entirely possible that as we evolved from water creatures into land mammals, we spent time as slug like creatures. It isn't likely that we would've been exactly like the slugs today, but because we can never really know how we evolved, there's no way of knowing whether or not current slugs might evolve into something much more interesting in a few million years from now.
- Just as we didn't realize that our efforts to increase food production with synthetic pesticides would have such far reaching and detrimental effects as it has had on bees and other needed creatures, there is no way to know what the genocide of slugs could mean for our species and the rest of the world. Just because they are strong enough to put up with most of what we've thrown at them so far, doesn't mean they cannot be threatened with extinction, especially when you consider how many people could care less about them and end up squishing them just for fun or killing them from fear of garden harm or simply from disgust. Personally, I'd rather be safe than sorry and learn to live in compliment with slugs than to just kill them because they "don't seem to be that important".
- Modern world hunger activists and nutrition researchers are playing around with the idea of encouraging people to eat slugs when they don't have the option of many other food sources. If we do away with slugs or find ways to continue poisoning them, that's anther potential source of solving world hunger that will be taken off the table (literally).
- It has been found that some slugs (like the Banana Slug) might hold the torch that will illuminate the path to the cure for cancer. In fact, properties in the banana slugs slim are already being used to enhance the effects of certain cancer drugs.
- Scientists believe that slime from certain slugs and snails can actually promote bone regeneration rather quickly, which could be good news for clumsy or injury prone people.
- Depending on where you are in the world, you might be living near slugs that can actually help clear up all sorts of skin ailments including acne, dermatitis and cuts. And while I definitely don't recommend it, many people in Italy have found raw slugs to be great for clearing up stomach ulcers.
So before you become a slug killer, think about the consequences of doing so. Squishing is wasteful, poisoning and slugocides hurt more than just slugs and killing anything is just not nice.
Giant Slug Bite
Fun Fact: Slug Penis's
Maybe you didn't really want to know this...
Or maybe you did!
Either way, you might find it interesting to know that the average slug "penis" is located on top and to the right of their heads. Just behind that is their anus, and both the penis and the anus are only a few centimeters or inches from their mouths. Yuck!
Less gross (bit still kind of weird), is knowing that slugs are on the list of species with the largest penises. Their male sexual organs can be as long and sometimes even longer than their own bodies.
For the Leopard Slug, that can be more than 8 inches long, rivaling many human male penises in length. The average slug penis length (even if their bodies are smaller) is 6 to 9 inches long.
In fact, the only other creature said to have a 'bigger' (in ratio with the body) willy than the whiley slug is the Squid, whose penis is often the same length as their body (1:1). Crazy!
Talk about jealous lovers! The mating ritual of the banana slug includes attempting to bite off each others penis's to prevent them from mating with other slugs
Does it grow back?
The answer is YES. Though it can take more than a year for a slug to regrow it's penis.
Myths about slugs
- Snails can climb trees - TRUTH: Although it's commonly thought that slugs only crawl on the ground and anything low to the ground, they are quite agile climbers. Their slime can be quite sticky on the right surfaces, including the wood of trees. And if they sniff the divine scent of rotting wood, honey or old fruit high up in a tree, they have no problem climbing to heights well above 30 feet to get it.
- Slugs Don't Bite - FALSE: With 27,000 backward facing teeth in their mouths, slugs certain "can" bite and have bitten people in the past. Slugs are extremely hard to aggravate and are generally passive creatures to humans. 98% of the time they don't bite and would much rather just crawl away as quickly as they can, but they will bite like any other creature if they feel threatened or if you're hurting them. In rare cases, a slug could potentially shoot you with a very sharp dart as well.
- Slugs are the slowest creatures on earth - TRUTH: Ironically, most three-toed sloths actually move slower than slugs on a regular basis. Though when put to the test in separate races, the fasted slug (a Banana Slug) can only get up to .03 miles per hour (6.5 inches per minute), whereas the might sloth can go 1.2 miles per hour - yeehaw!
- Adult Slugs are worse than baby slugs - FALSE: The only reason this is thought to be true is because you rarely ever actually see a "baby" slug. They start out as teeny tiny slugglings that often devour more than 4o TIMES their own body weight. And while they are usually about half the size of a dime when they are born, they continue eating 40x their body weight until they are nearly full grown, at which point they lighten up a little and only eat around 30x their own weight.
- Slugs shoot "love darts" at each other - TRUTH: Some philosophers actually ponder whether or not the snail/slug may have shaped the greek myth of Cupid and his own love darts. The ancient greeks were well aware of the mating rituals of slugs and snails at the time, so anything is possible. That being said, you might find it interesting to know that these "love darts" are in fact, not very loving. These so called darts are actually intended to open up the female parts in the other slug so that the sperm they exchange has a better chance of surviving over the next few months. Originally it was thought that these love darts were some kind of courting gift to the other slug, but this dart is the equivalent of being jabbed with a hypodermic needle and most slugs are quite adamant about avoiding it. These love darts are one of the many reasons slugs fight as a part of their mating rituals.
- Used Coffee Grounds will prevent slug infestations - FALSE: Spent coffee has no caffeine in it, which is the ingredient in coffee that is said to deter and/or kill off slugs. In fact, even freshly ground beans that are "unused" don't have enough caffeine and can in fact, just end up giving those slugs a boost in energy (the last thing you need!). Sadly, spent or fresh coffee grounds can actually effect your soil pH in negative ways unless you specifically need it to maintain that balance.
- Slugs can survive cold weather - TRUTH: As said above, slugs were built to survive, and a little bit of cold weather isn't going to do away with them. Slugs have been found to burrow underground, usually following already carved worm trails, where they hibernate until warmer weather arrives. Interestingly enough, they don't bother borrowing until temperatures dip below 32*F, and if they are near human habitats, they'll often stay out longer because they can hide in warm crevices around and sometimes even inside your home. Though when they do need to borrow below colder weather, slugs and snails have been recorded as being able to sleep for up to 3 years without coming up for a bite. Like many of their cousins, they are able to slow their heart rates and bring their bodily functions down to a minimum so they don't really need much. Then when the weather warms up, one of their many noses alerts them to the rising heat around them.
- Beer kills slugs - FALSE: The truth is that beer doesn't kill slugs, it's not even slightly poisonous to them. Though like most creatures, alcohol can still be hazardous to their health, especially if they are lured into a pie pan of it by a nefarious human who wants them gone. The beer-in-a-pie-pan method is pretty widely used by people who have beer in the house anyway. You simply pour the beer in a pie pan and then place it in level earth with the rim of the pan as the only part sticking out of the ground. The slugs will smell it's delicious scent and slide right into it like one heavenly beer bath. Problem is, they often get drunk from the bath and are then unable to crawl back out of the pie pan and they drown in the pan. Personally, I wouldn't suggest this method as it's almost more inhumane than poisoning or drying them up and you also have the potential of getting local cats, dogs and children liquored up. If you're going with anything other than organic beers, you're also likely to add more impurities and chemicals to your garden, which won't be any better than your slug problem.
- Licking a banana slug will make your tongue go numb - TRUTH: Banana slug slime contains an anesthetic in it that causes numbness in the mouth. It's actually a defense against predators and a fairly good one at that. Sadly, most people don't take the time to learn about this until they are dared as kids to lick a banana slug for fun, or as teens/adults to get high. In truth, there is nothing hallucinogenic about banana slug slime, and most people aren't told it will numb your tongue, which can be quite amusing to the right person. I'd imagine it's somewhat amusing to the slug as well.
Did you know that slugs wear skirts?
That's right. These zesty transgendered mollusks have a 'skirt'. And while it may not be quite as fashionable as the skirts we people wear, it seems that the slugs don't mind at all. The skirt is the little decorative outer layer around their foot. It's there to help protect them, help them climb things and to make them more attractive to mates.
Curing slug problems
If you've found yourself with a major slug infestation in your garden, on your farm or around your home and you're not so happy to share your life with them, here are some simply do's and don't's that will help everyone have a happily ever after.
- Bring in the Earth Worms! - It's been proven that having a garden rich with earth worms will both enrich your plant life and also keep slugs from destroying your crops. This works because the earth worms naturally increase nitrogen in the soil around your plants which bolsters their natural defenses against slugs and keep them healthy enough to withstand a little nibble here and there. The other reason this works is because nearly all slugs find earth worms to be a hearty meal and while slugs are generous eaters, they have limits too. It was found that when a gardens and crops had plentiful earth worms, slugs spent more time eating the worms and less time eating the plants.
- Have a diversity in plant life growing - It turns out that while slugs are not picky about what they eat, their digestive systems can be somewhat fickle, which is good for us. They have a hard time switching between many different types of food quickly, which is often while they will work on devouring an entire plant and not just nibbling and moving on. Because of this, slugs prefer to be in places where there are lots of one or two types of foods that they really like to eat. Researchers took the time to prove that by planting many different types of plants around, slugs will find themselves less attracted to being in your garden or around your home because there are too many choices. Now, if you're the only house with a garden for blocks around, they might still prefer your garden to others, but in those cases they are likely to centralize around only a few food sources, keeping them under control at least.
- Have a large compost bin that is AWAY from your garden - Slugs LOVE decaying and dying things, and they will be especially attracted to your compost bin. This is an easy "do" as most gardeners already have a compost bin started. If you don't, get one going and watch the slugs come a crawlin. If you're compost is large enough and far enough away from your crops, you shouldn't see any problems from full slugs.
- Place a single line of copper wire on the ground around your plants - This is an ancient and effective method for organic farmers and is safe for plants and other animals. In fact, it's not even lethal to the slugs. Though the copper reacts with their slime to create a strange and uncomfortable sensation, which is why they will avoid it like the plague.
- Sprinkle crushed up egg shells around the perimeter of your plants or house - Many people believe that crushed up egg shells will kill slugs, but the truth is, slugs just don't like climbing over sharp and pointy objects, egg shells included. Plus, eggs shells can help bring your plants a little extra calcium, iron and nitrogen.
- Make a Dog Food Slug Motel - This is a fun an virtually harmless way to squelch you slug challenges. Get yourself a pie pan and cut a few squares out from a few sides to act as "doors". Find a safe place in your garden to place a handful of dry dog food and then turn the pie pan upside and place it over the food. Do this in the later afternoon and then let the pan sit until early morning. At that time, go out and pick up the pie pan where you will find most of your sluggy friends feeling fat and full from a night of munching on dog food. From there, you can take your slugs away from the garden. I suggest placing them in your compost bin, but if you have a farther away place that you prefer or if you want to release them somewhere else, that works too.
- Get a Duck - The mighty duck is one of the slugs biggest natural predators and unlike bringing in slug-eating slugs or other predators, you won't have to worry about adding an extra pest to your garden. Though you'll definitely need a small wading pool or pond to keep your garden guardian happy for his or her efforts.
- Make Sandpaper Collars - Slugs will do more than you think to avoid going over rough surfaces. The bottom of their foot is ultra sensitive and this is part of the reason they make slime. Knowing that, just about anything with a rough or scratchy surface works as a great (and humane) deterrent to slugs. To do this, just take some light sandpaper and cut it into round rings that go around the bottom of your plants as a "collar". If they get too wet you'll need to replace them, but in most cases they provide your plant with plenty of protection from slugs.
- Plant Mint or Sage - Both are fantastic slug repellents.
- Grow MORE - I once knew a guy who used to have a beautiful garden in a neighborhood where everyone else lost most of their pretty plants and lovely vegetables to slugs. When asked how he managed to kill off and deter the slugs, he simply said, "I planted twice as much as I needed." He had a foresight that most of us lack, and it's sage advice. Just like the trick with the worms, by making sure you've got more than you need, you'll also make sure those slugs have more than they need and with plenty to go around, they are no longer "pests" anymore than you are.
- Use synthetic slug killers or pesticides - While I think the first and most obvious thing to consider when dealing with any pests is the fact that KILLING anything is completely inhumane and unbecoming of a species that considers itself so much "better" or "above" any other. Though since most of know this and it still doesn't stop the ruthless destruction of other creatures lives, the idea that you're also poisoning YOURSELF when you use synthetic anti-pest and pest-killing means that you get to breath it in while you use it, get it on your skin and then you digest it later because it gets soaked into your food.
- Use diatomaceous earth - Seriously, this is one of the worst ways for a snail to go outside of pouring salt right on them. Diatomaceous earth is crushed up sea shells and sea mammals (who are usually killed just for this purpose), and when the unsuspecting slug crawls onto it, the small pieces cut into their skin and then begin working to separate the slug from it's soft shell. Once that has happened, the slugs die a slow and very painful death. How would you like to go out like that? Even if you have no squishy sympathy, just look up the price of common gardeners diatomaceous earth, it isn't a cheap method of slug removal.
- Use salt to dry them up - As said above, this is the WORST way to kill a slug. The salt when poured onto their tiny bodies, acts like hydrochloric acid would if poured onto our bodies. Or for another gruesome visual, imagine that your walking along the street, minding your own business, thinking about what's for lunch when suddenly the wind picks you up and hurls you into the vacuum of space where you're body suddenly has every ounce of water and oxygen violent sucked from it. That is what it's like for the snail you just poured salt on top of. NOT NICE. And if you ask me, that's bad karma for any farmer or gardener. Within all technicality, salt used to be used to pour around the edges of plants to deter the slugs from crawling up to them in the first place. This method is much more humane and does work well, though you'll need to be especially watchful of the pH balance in your soil if you do that, and personally, when there are so many other options, I would just avoid using salt.
- Stomp or crunch them - Again, put yourself in the slugs shoe. If someone gigantic being came along and slammed it's big ugly foot down on you and ended your life, you wouldn't be pleased and neither would any of your family members who cried from your untimely death. So please, don't stomp on or "crunch" the little slugs in your garden or anywhere. It's just not right.
Honestly, there are times when I stop and wonder if slug and snail infestations are not simply a result of the slugs fighting back after one of their cousins have been brutally murdered by a human. I've had plenty of friends who organically gardened in peace with slugs, snails and other creepy crawly's, and those little creatures did nothing more than help my friends in their efforts. Sure, they took their compensation when they wanted it, but there were no "pest problems" or "slug infestations".
Then there are the friends of mine who say they've spent decades fighting with slugs and snails. They use every chemical spray and power slug killers they can find. And for all their effort they could never get rid of the slugs/snails and they ended up ruining the land that they were gardening on, because all the chemicals made it impossible to grow any healthy foods or flowers. Call it coincidence, karma or what you will, but I for one feel that anytime we can live in harmony with mother nature, we must do so.
Leopard slug love
SLUG PREP - Before You Eat
Like any live captured meal, there are some things you need to do before those slugs are ready to cook right up.
First and most importantly, you need to kill your slug, preferably quickly and humanely. The most common way of doing this is to soak them in a boil pan of vinegar and water for 3-4 minutes. Change the water and then do this again two or three times. This process also removes any slime, stops the production of more slime and kills of any pathogens or bacteria that might not be good for you. Make sure at this point that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap as well.
Prepping a slug for dinner is much the same as prepping a fish. Once you kill it and clean it, you need to gut it. This means carefully slitting open the abdomen with a pairing knife, being careful not to slice open any organs, and then removing the digestive tract and any other easily removable organs. There are no bones, so don't worry about de-boning.
What do slugs taste like?
Whether you want to cook up your own slugs at home or you're on your way to France, you might find it reassuring to know that snails and slugs taste sort of like Scallops or Clams. In a similar fashion to Tilapia, they don't have a strong taste at all. In fact, you can flavor slug meat with just about anything because of it's lack of taste.
Slug: The 'Other' White Meat
You might not have ever considered it, and you might be disgusted now that I'm suggesting it, but honestly, have you considered simply adding those pesky garden pests to your dinner menu? Slugs are highly nutritious, packed full of vitamins, minerals, protein and sodium. They are also said to be about the same texture and consistency of clams or scallops, except with less taste.
And you might be interested in knowing that humans have been eating slugs and snails for centuries. In fact, it is believed that slugs might be another piece of the large puzzle that will solve world hunger when the puzzle is all put together.
Just in case you're interested in trying out this idea, here are some fantastic and reliable recipes that will have you loving slugs and telling all your friends about it:
SIMPLY SLUG SOUP
- This one is easy and you can customize it with anything you like. The most common ingredients in slug soup are carrots, celery, garlic and tomatoes.
BANANA SLUG CREAM PIE
- This recipe is best when you have a satchel full of banana slugs, but any slug will do. For this you will want about 2 lbs of slugs (or pre-prepped slug meat), a can of whipped cream topping and gram-cracker pie crust. The rest is the same as making a banana-cream pie (and you might consider adding some actual banana's for an extra exotic taste).
SUPER SLUG BURGER
- If you're a fan of meat that has been squished between a bun and layered with several other ingredients, than why not try a slug burger? In order to do this, you'll need to grind up the slug meat like you would with pork, beef or fowl and then mush it all together and shape it into burgers before throwing them on the griddle to cook. Just under a pound of slug meat should make one average sized burger. Cheddar or Pepperjack cheese is suggested.
DEEP FRIED SLUGS AND TATERS
- If you're a fan of deep-fried anything, you'll like this one. Once you've properly prepped your slugs, stick them in your fryer basket and send them down into the grimy deep of your electric deep-fryer and let them fry for about 10 minutes. Optionally, you might consider breading them in a garlic and butter based breading before you fry them, which gives them the same appeal as deep-friend mushrooms. Cook up some tater tots or crinkle fries to go with them and you'll have a meal that everyone (whose brave enough just to try a nibble) will absolutely love.
The most famous recipe for eating slugs or snails comes from France where they are famous for their escargot (pronounced: "S-Car-Go"), where they simply boil up those babies in garlic and butter sauce and then serve them in another batch of the same kind of sauce.
In general, you want to treat slugs and snails like shellfish. They can be substituted in any recipe that you would use scallops, lobster, crab, fish, clams, muscles, oysters or crawfish.
Just remember to plan to use some seasonings as slugs don't have much of their own 'taste'.
One of my favorite books for further fascinating reading on slugs, is this one; Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest, which I actually came across at a Half Priced Book store one day when I was browsing while waiting for traffic to clear up after work.
It was shortly after writing this article that I found this book, and while I'm not normally a slug-o-phile, once I realized there was so much more to slugs than leaving slime trails and eating my decaying veggies, this book seemed like a treasure trove rather than a big bore. After just a few glances through it, I decided to take it home, and it's been in my home library since. It's my go to book whenever I find a slug or snail I haven't seen yet, or whenever I wanna remember how to work with the slugs in my garden, rather than against them--which is easier to do than it might seem at first, and well worth it.