Chesapeake Bay Soft Shell Crabs
What a treat it is when soft shelled crabs are in season! This year is going to be an extra treat, with an abundance of blue crabs, the season is forecasted to linger on into September.
Their appearance may be a little creepy and almost prehistoric at first sight, but once you understand what you’re looking at (and, definitely once you have a taste) it will all make sense why these little creatures are such a delicacy.
So, here’s their story. Blue Crabs are abundant on the east coast and are even found in the gulf as well. The Chesapeake Bay is where a lot of the softshell crabs come from. They get their name from their sapphire tinted claws. The scientific name is Callinectes sapidus which translates to “beautiful swimmer”.
So, this is what happens. As the crab grows, he needs to molt his shell to continue growing bigger. This can happen 25 times in his first year. Folklore has it that this starts happening after the first full moon in May to accommodate for the summer growing seasons. Once he has molted his shell, a new shell starts to form. Scouring the ocean floor for a crab that just molted his shell is impossible. If they did, can you imagine the cost of that precious creature?
So, this is how it happens. The crabs are caught just before they reach the molting stage and placed in large pods. The crabs are monitored 24 hours a day. As soon as they molt their shell they must be removed from the pod. This ensures the new exoskeleton (a.k.a. the shell) doesn’t start to form. What you have is crab meat; only the face, gills and the bottom apron are inedible. Not everyone is up to the task of defacing these little creatures but any establishment that sells them I am sure would be happy to take on this task for you.
The most popular way to prepare these delectable “beautiful swimmers” is to sauté or deep fry. It’s easy and doesn’t take any time. There’s no reason not to enjoy this gift from the ocean at home!