Coolest northforker stories of 2017: East Coast’s first snail farm offers escargot

Owner and snail wrangler Taylor Knapp holds up a snail at Peconic Escargot in Cutchogue. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Add snails to the list of North Fork fare you can find on the menus of local restaurants.

Taylor and Katelyn Knapp, co-owners of Peconic Escargot in Cutchogue, began delivering their fresh, farm-raised escargot to a handful of East End and New York City restaurants in June. Mr. Knapp said his snail ranch is the only operation of its kind on the East Coast.

When the snails are ready to be harvested, they are driven from the operation’s Cutchogue greenhouse to the Stony Brook Business Incubator in Calverton, where they are processed and vacuum-sealed. They are sold shelled and with the shell intact, both wholesale and retail.

These local snails have an earthy and herbaceous flavor, Mr. Knapp said, which he attributed to a diet of foraged items like clover, garlic, mustard and dandelion (they also eat a lot of dirt). And the texture is akin to that of cooked oyster.

You may find them on the menu at Greenport restaurants like Industry Standard, Salamander’s on Front, American Beech and Bruce & Son.

Peconic Escargot leases its land from the Peconic Land Trust through the nonprofit’s “Farms for the Future” initiative, which aims to protect the future of farming on the East End.

The first generation of snails was imported and raised at Peconic Escargot’s greenhouse for breeding. The second generation is now being sold retail and wholesale.

The snails take about six to eight months to raise to adulthood and in June Mr. Knapp estimated the farm had about 10,000 snails with the capacity to house 15,000.

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to become the country’s only USDA-certified snail farm took about four years, he said.