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Bringing a gourmet trend to Cyprus
THOSE little creatures carrying their homes along with them, snails contribute to our lives in many more ways than you could ever think of. They are used in pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and even in cancer research. But perhaps most importantly, snails are a significant food source with a high nutritional value.
Two sisters from Corinth, Greece have succeeded in establishing an export-led business from scratch, which is now also conquering Cyprus much faster than snail’s pace.
The idea for an innovative organic snail farm was conceived when Penny and Maria Vlachou realised the demand for snails was very high and yet only 10 per cent of it was being covered. Snails are often seen as a delicacy, a type of gourmet food, and yet it is in climates like that of Greece and Cyprus where they thrive.
It was therefore the perfect set-up to start an entrepreneurial project that quickly gained pace and is now exporting all over Europe and is considering steady expansion to third countries such as China and Canada.
“Since antiquity snails have occupied an important place in human nutrition and belong to the Mediterranean culinary tradition,” said Maria. She explained that snails are a rich source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, Omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. And research has shown that due to the favourable climate in Greece, the snails grown there are richer in Omega-3 fatty acids.
The organic farm in Corinth began in 2007, starting with only three hectares. The success enjoyed, however, has resulted in it expanding its practices throughout Greece, collaborating with 168 families and managing a total of 1,650 hectares. The snails are grown exclusively on the farms, under strict agricultural and veterinary guidelines, and are certified as organic.
“The meat of snails is tender and has a neutral taste,” Maria said, “which means it can be cooked in endless variations”. Snails can form part of traditional mezedes, such as snail stew; plain with olive oil, tomato and herbs; with risotto; or as part of gourmet dishes, such as with truffle oil and porcini cream; souvlaki, or even tempura. It can be served with other fish and meat dishes, or on its own, cooked or simply pre-boiled. Snails are even suitable for lent.
Fereikos-Helix, the name of the company, derives from the ancient Greek word ‘fere-oikos’, which literally translated means “I carry my own house”, a word that characterises the snail.
“The lengthy process required for cleaning and preparing the snails inspired us to create a series of products that are pre-boiled with or without shells so that this delicious healthy dish can be enjoyed by all without the hassle,” said Maria. Thus since April 2011, FereikosGefsis offers high quality snail products, cleaned and pre-cooked, while the sisters said that from May 2013 the company will launch convenient ready-to cook-meals (in cooperation with the famous chef Ettore Bottrini).
“People nowadays want quality food, they are searching for authentic and organic products, that are though easy to prepare,” explained Maria.
Seventy per cent of the company’s production is exported abroad, with Lordos Hospitality Group partnering Fereikos for the distribution of the products in Cyprus. The products are sold in various-sized bottles and cans, and original recipes can be tasted at Limoncello Deli-Bar at the Ayios Antonios Municipal Market in Nicosia.
Andreas Lordos, owner of Limoncello told the Sunday Mail that soon the products will also be available at large supermarkets, as well as restaurants and hotels throughout Cyprus.