Saturday, September 10, 2005
Eat and Release...How To Eat An Animal Without Killing It.
In Florida we have a lot of crabs. We have Blue Crabs, Green Crabs, Calico Crabs, Fiddler Crabs, Shame-Faced Crabs, Porcelain Crabs, Pea Crabs, Wharf Crabs, Mud Crabs,....(pauses for breath)..., Spider Crabs, Coral Crabs, Decorator Crabs, Ghost Crabs, and Stone Crabs, just to name a few.
The pile of claws in the picture are stone crab claws. I gathered these snorkeling a rock jetty. (JETTY = a line of boulders installed to prevent the natural flow of sand along a shoreline. They often increase erosion rather than control it...whole 'nother post)
A little about the personal life of stone crabs. They like stones...that is, they like hard structure to hide in. Hard structure like rocks, pilings, wrecks, etc also provide the appropriate living space for the stone crabs prey. Stone crabs have massive and very powerful claws (chelipeds for you nerds) for crushing and opening clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, and any other bivalves (2-shelled molluscs for you nonnerds) that they encounter.
Like most crabs....probably all crabs, the stone crab starts out as eggs carried under momma's abdomen. She offers great protection until they hatch, at which time they are on their own as planktonic larvae.
As larvae, they drift with the tides and currents and go through a series of molts, becoming more crablike with each molt. After a while the tiny new crab settles down into appropriate habitat and becomes a creeping crawling clawed crusher of clams. (Gotta love alliteration).
In Florida, stone crabs are a high value item that will put a dent in your wallet when you order them off a menu. If you don't mind getting wet, you can gather them yourself...if you don't mind oyster cuts, currents, often murky water, yes....sharks, and really ticked off crabs with bone crushing claws.
Okay, you can just hang a couple of crab traps off the boat and never even get wet, but where's the fun in that? You'll miss out on all that other excitement, but you're still going to have to deal with a ticked off bone crusher... if you're lucky.
When snorkeling for crabs, you prowl around the rocks trying to find a grabbable crab...one that isn't tucked way back in his hidey-hole. Then, you grab both claws at the same time. This is really important. If you only grab one claw, and fail to secure the other, you are going to experience what the clam does. It's going to hurt. Alot.
Should you successfully grasp the crab and wrench it from the rocks, you must not relax your control hold or ....it's going to hurt...alot.
Just to keep things rolling, let's say you make it to the surface with a secured crab. You may not kill the crab. If you do, you have broken the law and wasted the crab's life. There's just no meat worth eating in the body, it's the claws that are loaded with tastey meat.
You can only take the claws, so grasping a claw securely, you twist downward and POP! The claw cleanly separates at the joint where it met the body of the crab. The twisting stimulated the crab's survival tactic of self-amputation...pretty handy when an octopus has your leg.
The claw or claws (I like to leave the smaller one) goes in the cooler, the crab goes back to his hide-hole.
The crab will regenerate a new claw through successive molts. The new claw will be small at first, but each molt will reveal a larger claw until finally the claw is full size again. How long this takes depends on habitat conditions, crabs grow faster and molt more often under good conditions.
My wife would eat stone crab over any other seafood if given a choice and I have to agree, they are pretty good.
I racked my brain and tried to think of any other animal that compares to the stone crab...meaning what other animals donate an actual body part (eggs don't count) for us to eat, while still getting to live?
Can you imagine what it would be like if other animals worked this way?
"Honey, I'm in the mood for a rump roast...go out back and twist a leg off the cow"
"Hey, come on over Saturday, we're going to snap the wings off the chickens and fry up some Buffalo wings"
...I don't even want to think about Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Posted by R.Powers at 9:54 PM