Stone Crab Season

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Stone Crab are unique in many ways: delectable, sustainable and available.

Stone Crab are a "best choice" for sustainable seafood lovers. By-catch is minimized, particularly since special traps have been required since 1979. Stone Crab season begins October 15 and ends May 15 so there's only about a month left to try this delicacy.

Stone Crab have the unique ability to lose a claw, and regenerate a replacement within a year - talk about the ultimate evolutionary advancement. One claw generally grows larger than the other and develops as the fighting claw (AKA dinner for us), while the other is for feeding, the crab, that is.

This trait makes them ideal for responsible, sustainable harvesting. Only one claw is removed and the crab is returned to its habitat. Within 12 -18 months it will re-generate the claw that was removed.

From the Gulf to Your Table

Stone crab come primarily from two locations. The gulf side of Florida (Menippi adina) and the Atlantic side of Florida (Menippi mercenaria). The meat is compared to lobster in its texture and sweetness.

This is a highly perishable product and one that would lose much if frozen. Try to find a family owned and operated purveyor such as Charlie's on Florida's Gulf Coast. Like many family owned and operated businesses, they own the entire process from trapping to shipping. Follow up emails or text messages to ensure your order arrived as FedEx promised is one of those "above and beyond" customer service experiences all too rare these days.

Charlie's will even send a mallet and their own horseradish dipping sauce (see photo). Perfect!

Nutrition and Stone Crab

  • Stone crabs are a good, low-fat source of protein, vitamins (like B12) and minerals like selenium and magnesium.
  • Previously, people watching cholesterol were advised to avoid shellfish. More sophisticated recent tools for measuring cholesterol show that shellfish contain much lower levels of cholesterol than was assumed earlier.
  • Noncholesterol sterols present in mollusks (clams, oysters, scallops and mussels) actually appear to have a beneficial effect on the body's absorption of other cholesterol eaten at the same meal.
  • Crustaceans such as crab and lobster have cholesterol comparable to the dark meat of chicken.
  • Seafood in general is an excellent source of highly digestible, low fat protein. It also provides healthy sources of minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, potassium, iodine, phosphorous and selenium.
  • Crab are not a concern for toxins or methylmercury that pregnant or nursing women or anyone with compromised immune systems should limit or avoid.

Cracking Crab

Other types of crab such as Maryland Blue Crab are perhaps more familiar and are definitely easier to crack. Snow crab, blue crab, neither are too hard. But the shell of Stone Crab are so hard, they render the usual techniques and tools useless. Luckily, Stone Crab shells, hard as they are, cannot stand up to a hammer. The added benefit is that the meat comes out of the shell easily and in large, satisfying hunks.

Lay some paper down, pop a beer, grab a wooden mallet or meat tenderizer and be sure you're wearing clothes that can take a beating, too. Crab boils also keep the eating pace slow, by the nature of the endeavor itself. Slower eating helps your brain register satiety closer to real time than if you were to eat more a qucker meal easily. Eating quckly does not allow for the 20 minute lag time between actual satiety (when you feel full) and when your brain registers that feeling.

Don't Bother Me I'm Crabby

Anyone who's traveled through Maryland knows this slogan well from the gift shops and souvenir stores. Here are a couple of other crabby quotes from diplomats to divas:

"There are three species of creatures who when they seem coming are going, when they seem going they come: diplomats, women, and crabs." John Hay, 19th century American diplomat

"So if anybody wants to get me something, get me 60 crabs - one for each year. I don't want no diamonds, I don't want no shoes, I don't want no party. I want some crabs." Patti LaBelle

To learn more:

For recipes and more information on Florida Stone Crab, check the Florida Seafood site. (It includes kid-friendly games and educational sheets you can download.)

The Florida Seafood site has many useful links and lots of good information including tips on unscrupulous purveyors or restauranteurs serving catfish or tilapia and charging for Grouper. Grouper is a fairly expensive Florida fish that has become sought after by many diners in and around Miami.

Vistors to Miami can try the delicacy at Joe's Stone Crab, a famous restaurant that built its reputation on serving this seasonal treat.

  • Here's a tip: try Joe's lunch take-away counter. With a few tables and a bustling takeout business, you can enjoy a full meal of stone crab for much less than dinner in the restaurant.

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