It might not catch on like lemon or blackcurrant, but an Italian ice cream expert has come up with a sorbet made from snail slime.

Alessandro Racca, a master of sorbet and gelato making, concocted a strawberry sorbet which relies on snail secretions as one of its primary ingredients, along with sugar and a little water.

He was impressed by the emulsifying and binding qualities of the slime and said the sorbet tasted surprisingly good.

It is believed to be the first time that snail slime has been used to make a sorbet or gelato.

There was a serious purpose to the experiment – the idea was to come up with a way to persuade children suffering from cancer to take snail slime supplements as part of their treatment.

The snail goo can help with digestion for patients fighting tumours.

Slime is extracted from the snails in steam bathsCredit:
Carpigiani Group

Mr Racca, from Carpigiani Gelato University near Bologna, the world’s first “university” for the study and production of gelato, collaborated with Tania Bosio, who runs a snail farm called La Regina del Bosco (The Queen of the Forest) in Monterotondo in northern Italy.

The farm owns more than two million snails, which reproduce each year between June and September.

The creatures, which are hermaphrodite, produce around 100 eggs each.

“I was amazed at the emulsifying and stabilising properties of the product, which is totally natural and organic,” said Mr Racca.

“There is still a lot of study to do because the recipe was thought up on the spot and I need to do some more tests on the chemical and physical characteristics of the product. But we are off to a good start.”

Gelato maestro Alessandro Racca, in the centre, with the snail slime sorbet he concoctedCredit:
Carpigiani Group

Michela Iorio, from the Gelato University, said: “Snail slime has many properties, including helping with digestion and even helping to treat bronchitis. In the old days, if Italian farmers had colds, they’d eat snails.”

The snail slime sorbet will be presented at a festival of Italian snail farmers in Cherasco in the northern region of Piedmont later this month.

Snail drool is increasingly in vogue in cosmetic products such as face cream, with advocates claiming it can treat wrinkles, scars and acne, but it also has medicinal uses.

Its healing properties were first discovered by snail farmers in Chile in the 1990s, who noticed that cuts and scratches on their hands healed quicker when they handled the molluscs.

Snail farming in Italy is booming and has increased by more than 325% in the last 20 years.

Italian farms produce 44,000 tons of snails each year, with the industry estimated to be worth £180 million, according to Coldiretti, an agricultural association.

The snail farming business in Italy is boomingCredit:
Carpigiani Group

Slime is extracted from the snails by immersing them in special steam baths – “essentially a spa for snails”, as one producer put it.

The University of Ferrara in northern Italy is researching the health properties of snail mucus and last month received a grant worth €1.3 million from the government.

“It is widely used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, with most of it imported from countries in South America and Eastern Europe,” said the university’s Prof Claudio Trapella.