by M.L. Faunce
How’s Your Latin?
Callinectes sapidus and Homarus Americanus Related crustaceans we know and love
In summer, know it or not, we become Latin lovers as tons of Maine lobsters and Maryland crabs are caught, sought, steamed and devoured by the human species, the ultimate predator. The flyway I travel in summer lets me enjoy the riches of both.
One walks faster backward than forward; one swims, beautifully. Both molt or shed their shells to grow. Both are amorous, but one is promiscuous. Neither can mate except when the female has shed her shell. One will mate only once, upon maturity at 12 to 18 months, while living to an average of three years. The other can live and reproduce on and on.
Which one is that? This spring, a 22-pound lobster, age estimated at 50 years, was pulled from the waters off Nantucket and named Bubba.
These crustaceans are both prey and aggressive predator with canabalistic tendencies. Yet steamed, both are valued for their sweetness. Blue-green in life, both turn red in the pot.
Their meat is healthful: carb-free for crabs, nearly fat-free for lobsters and packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals and lots of Omega 3 fatty acids, said to reduce the risk of heart attack. Eating them delivers fewer calories and saturated fats than chicken or turkey if you skip the butter, of course.
Bought from roadside trucks, waterfront restaurants or your favorite local seafood purveyor, the meal of lobster or blue crab that defines summer will also lighten your wallet if or when you can get them.
Despite a cold winter and, by watermen’s standards, a miserable spring in both states, lobstermen in Maine see signs of a good season ahead, an earlier start than last year, with healthy numbers of juvenile lobsters growing to maturity. Maryland crabbers saw lots of young crabs early this the cold spring, but legal adults have been slow to follow. Mysteries abound in both of these related species.
Echoing the refrain of the Chesapeake Bay crabber, Ain’t nobody knows the blue crab, a Maine lobsterman put it this way: We can’t figure out how to outsmart an animal with no brain. No brain doesn’t mean no intelligence, as any Maryland crabber can swear to you.
You pay a price to enjoy the sweet meat of both shellfish. But considering how elusive they are and labor intensive their catching and picking, it’s not so high a price.
When I was in Maine last week, lobsters were going for $7.40 a pound on average, live and in the shell. It takes a lobster seven to eight years to grow to legal market size, the pound to pound-and-an-eighth lobster known as a chicken lobster. It takes five or six of those chix to make a pound of lobster meat.
Before I left Maryland, local crabs were still running slow. I bought two-dozen mixed males from a local crabber for $40. They were small but sweet. An average large crab would yield two ounces of meat, with about 20 picked to make a pound
of crabmeat. These weren’t that large.
Each in its own place and time, there’s no sweeter meat available this side of the Atlantic.
Humane readers will be glad to know that a recent study claims lobsters don’t feel pain when plunged into a boiling bath. We might presume the same for the blue crab.
To brush up on your Latin heading into the Fourth of July:
This week’s source
Annapolis Seafood Markets (Severna Park, Waldorf, Annapolis, Edgewater)
Where “the prices of live or steamed Maryland male crabs won’t go down before the holiday.”
- Large $42 the dozen; $250 the bushel;
- Medium $28 the dozen; $210 the bushel.
Order live Maine lobsters over the Internet from Maine Lobster Direct, Union Wharf, Portland, Maine, at www.mainelobsterdirect.com. Bibs and cooking instructions included. Order by 5pm for next-day Fed Ex delivery. Sample price: Four Medium lobsters at 11&Mac218;3 pounds each average, shipped overnight to Maryland zip codes: $96.15.