Crab-loving customers eagerly await the soft-shell season and can’t seem to get enough of the delectable crustaceans.
A Seaview patron recently came in our Carolina Beach market and bought two of our soft-shell crabs. The next day he, and his wife, returned to the market to buy more but were disappointed when they discovered all the soft-shell crabs had been sold.
“When will you have more?” they frantically asked the fishmonger.
The couple explained they had made fried soft-shell crab sandwiches from the crabs bought the day before and were craving some more.
here’s just nothing like the taste of the mouth-watering meat of a plump blue crab, especially when it’s a soft-shell.
Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) that have shed their hard (outer) shells in preparation for growth or mating.
The first wave of soft-shells has already arrived in our markets, providing our stores with an unusually plump and tasty assortment of meaty crustaceans.
For the next few weeks our crabbers can expect to see a run of peeler crabs. Our experts target female crabs that are molting into mature crabs after a dormant winter.
These crabs can be caught in “peeler pots” which are crab traps in which one or two large males are used as bait to attract the females ready to mate.
The peeler crabs are held for a short time in shedding tanks until the molt. After molting, the soft-shell crabs are removed from the water and refrigerated for sale. “In the summer, we still get soft-shells,” said Sam Romano, co-owner of Seaview Crab Company. “But it’s not like one big rush. The soft-shells normally continue coming into the market through October.”
That’s because the crabs continue to grow, and mate, throughout the summer.
When the time is right, the crabs begin to molt and experienced crabbers look for a faint line next to the backfin. The color of this line determines when the crab is ready to shed. The line starts as a narrow white line, but a few days before shedding, the white lines give way to a red line.
A red line means shedding is imminent. Once the crab has shed its shell, it must be taken out of water quickly so that it’s new exterior doesn’t have the opportunity to harden.
The soft-shells are here – don’t miss them!
Catch you later.