Archive for June, 2009


Blue Crab Trivia

June 29, 2009

Alligator about to chomp on a blue crabAlligator about to chomp on a blue crab


The oldest crab industry in the United States is the blue crab industry of the Chesapeake Bay area, dating back almost to the early 1600s.

A major American seafood resource, blue crabs are most notably associated with the Chesapeake Bay. The scientific name of this crustacean is Callinectes sapidus, which translates from Latin and Greek to mean beautiful, savory swimmer. Recreational and commercial fishing for blue crab occurs not just in the Chesapeake Bay but also along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Blue crabs play a critical ecological role in estuaries. They feed on small fish, bivalves, other crustaceans, worms, and organic debris and are preyed upon by fresh and saltwater fish, herons, diving ducks and raccoons. Blue crabs are even a favorite food of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that migrate to the Chesapeake Bay every summer.

The total amount of blue crab landed in 2000 was approximately 184 million pounds, approximately 78% coming from just four states, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

Blue crab populations from areas outside the Chesapeake Bay are considered to be stable while those within the Bay are showing significant decline. In 2000, 47 million pounds were landed from the Bay, which is well below the 75 million pounds taken on average over the past 30 years.

To meet blue crab demand, a related species named blue swimming crab is being imported from Asia. More than 70% of the crabmeat products sold in the U.S. contain imported crabmeat.



Crab poem by Sharon Olds

June 28, 2009

crab gif1


When I eat crab, slide the rosy
rubbery claw across my tongue
I think of my mother. She’d drive down
to the edge of the Bay, tiny woman in a
huge car, she’d ask the crab-man to
crack it for her. She’d stand and wait as the
pliers broke those chalky homes, wild-
red and knobby, those cartilage wrists, the
thin orange roof of the back.
I’d come home, and find her at the table
crisply unhousing the parts, laying the
fierce shell on one side, the
soft body on the other. She gave us
lots, because we loved it so much,
so there was always enough, a mound of crab like a
cross between breast-milk and meat. The back
even had the shape of a perfect
ruined breast, upright flakes
white as the flesh of a chrysanthemum, but the
best part was the claw, she’d slide it
out so slowly the tip was unbroken,
scarlet bulb of the feeler—it was such a
kick to easily eat that weapon,
wreck its delicate hooked pulp between
palate and tongue. She loved to feed us
and all she gave us was fresh, she was willing to
grasp shell, membrane, stem, to go
close to dirt and salt to feed us,
the way she had gone near our father himself
to give us life. I look back and
see us dripping at the table, feeding, her
row of pink eaters, the platter of flawless
limp claws, I look back further and
see her in the kitchen, shelling flesh, her
small hands curled—she is like a
fish-hawk, wild, tearing the meat
deftly, living out her life of fear and desire.

by Sharon Olds


Crab Trivia

June 27, 2009

Happy crabs from Bill's Seafood in Baltimore MD

Happy crabs from Bill’s Seafood in Baltimore MD

Crab Trivia

America has more varieties of crabs than anywhere else in the world.

The smallest crabs are the pea crab, which live inside oyster shells, and can be less than 1.5 mm. The largest crab is the Japanese spider crab, which reach 12 feet from leg tip to leg tip, and a body 18 inches by 12 inches.

The oldest crab industry in the United States is the blue crab industry of the Chesapeake Bay area, dating back almost to the early 1600s.

A single Alaskan King Crab can yield over 6 pounds of meat. They can measure up to a 6 foot leg span.



Global warming benefit – soft shell crabs earlier

June 26, 2009

Blue Crab Molting

Blue Crab Molting

Don’t Tell Al Gore: Soft-Shell Crabs Already Here

When, in the very first week of March, soft-shell crabs appeared at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, they seemed as unnatural as two-headed kittens. These molted creatures, normally a summer treat, have been appearing earlier and earlier. (The Oyster Bar folks claim they’ve cornered the winter market.) Are they a product of … global warming? And are these freaks any good? We asked David Pasternack, executive chef at Esca and our adviser on all things briny.

“The crabs shed by the cycle of the moon and the water temperature,” Pasternack tells us. “They don’t know what time of year it is. So if the water is warm enough in Florida or Alabama, they’re shedding.” And indeed, the water is warm enough. (The oil companies would like you to know that this may not have anything to do with what we’re calling “global warming.”) Our fish-expert friend nevertheless says it’s “too early” to be enjoying the delicacy: “The first ones are usually pretty small. I like the bigger crabs; they’re much juicier. My local guy, Tommy Crab, he got me some three-quarter-of-a-pound crabs last summer! Those are the ones that are worth waiting for.” When we point out that not everybody has a “local guy” named “Tommy Crab,” and that it’s awful tempting to mosey on down to the Oyster Bar for a soft one, Pasternack admits that many of those eager fishermen have been steadily improving their catch. “Some of these guys,” he says, “have it down to a science.” So there you have it: While Esca’s head chef hasn’t yet indulged this season, you might as well. Just don’t tell them Tommy Crab sent you.



Does Chesapeake mean “great shellfish bay”?

June 25, 2009
Captain Chesapeake

Captain Chesapeake

“Chesapeake” is a Susquehanock word meaning “great shellfish bay.” Undoubtedly native peoples led European settlers to some of the best places to catch crabs. Early treaties always included provisions for the rights of Native Americans for “Hunting, Crabbing, Fowling, and Fishing.”


The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquian word referring to a village “at a big river.” It is the seventh oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S., first applied as “Chesepiook” by explorers heading north from the Roanoke Colony into a Chesapeake tributary in 1585 or 1586.[2] In 2005, Algonquian linguist Blair Rudes “helped to dispel one of the area’s most widely held beliefs: that ‘Chesapeake’ means something like ‘Great Shellfish Bay.’ It doesn’t, Rudes said. The name might actually mean something like ‘Great Water,’ or it might have been just a village at the bay’s mouth.”

From Wikipedia


Blue crabs have a substance used in nanosensors

June 24, 2009


A substance found in crab shells is the key component in a nanoscale sensor system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations.

Clark School engineers are using a substance called chitosan (pronounced “kite-o-san”), found in the shells of the Chesapeake Bay’s famous blue crab, to coat components of the microscopic sensor system.

Crab lovers can hold on to their mallets — crabs do not need to be harvested specifically for this purpose. The material is extracted from the crab shell waste.

Reza Ghodssi, associate professor in the Clark School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the university’s Institute for Systems Research (ISR), and a member of the Maryland NanoCenter , is one of the investigators leading the project. He is joined by a multidisciplinary group: Gary Rubloff from ISR and the NanoCenter, Bill Bentley from the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and Greg Payne from the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI).

“Chitosan is interesting because it’s a biological compound that can interact with a wide variety of substances, and also work well in a complex, sensitive device,” Ghodssi says.



Crabs and Chinese medicine

June 23, 2009

crabs china 00123fc5bdb70a78ac9e2d

Below is a description of the energetic qualities of crab meat according to Chinese medicine.  From the book Healing with Whole Foods, Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford.

Thermal nature: neutral

Flavor: sweet and salty

Properties: Nurtures the yin, moistens dryness; used in the treatment of bone fractures and dislocations, poison ivy, and burns.  In quantity, it has a toxic effect.  Contraindicated in conditions of wind (strokes, nervousness, spasm, etc.) and during exterior conditions such as the onset of the common cold.