Soft-shell Crabs

(Callinectes sapidus): WILD CAUGHT

SPRING MEANS SOFT-SHELL CRABS to many seafood lovers — especially along the waters of Chesapeake Bay, where this delicacy has been a signature dish since the 1870s. The translation of this crab’s scientific name says it all: Callinectes is Greek for “beautiful swimmer,” and sapidus is Latin for “tasty” or “savory.”

Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs (the predominant crustacean in the Chesapeake) which have recently molted. Blue crabs are a member of the family portunidae, the swimming crabs. It is easily identified by its body color, which is generally a bright blue along the frontal area. Traditionally, the molting season is heralded by the first full moon in May. Crabs shed their shells prior to their summer growth: once a crab has shed its hard outer shell, it can grow in excess of 33 percent of its original size.

Blue crabs are found on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean Sea, where they aggressively feed on juvenile mussels, oysters and clams, along with dead fish and plants. Watermen on the Chesapeake harvest crabs with crab pots baited with fish (usually the herring-like menhaden). They harvest them by the million, even in water with very low salinity, almost in fresh water. There are many ways to enjoy these crabs, but the most popular method remains lightly breaded and pan-fried in oil.

Soft-shells are available in four general size categories (from small to large, measured across the back point-to-point): Hotels (4 to 4 ½ inches), Primes (4 ½ to 5 inches), Jumbos ( 5 to 5 ½ inches) and Whales (over 5½ inches). We sell generally sell crabs in flats. Hotels are 5 dozen per flat, Primes are 4 dozen per flat, and Jumbos are 3 dozen per flat and Whales are 2 dozen per flat.

Soft-Shell Crabs are delicate and often do not survive overnight shipment, especially through the air. If one or more of the crabs arrive dead, they are generally still good to use/eat/serve.

Catch Region: Chesapeake Bay

Seasonality: Typically Mid May to July, may extend into September

Catch Method: Crab Pots

Flavor Profile: Mild yet sweet, buttery

Texture Profile: Delicate


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