Blue Crabs Live in Chinatown Markets


Female crab broken open to display orange roe — that’s some good eatin’!

This morning Fork in the Road wrote about the spiny softshell turtles currently being displayed live in Chinatown fish markets. But those aren’t the only things crawling around in wooden crates and cardboard boxes on display right on the sidewalk. The blue-crab season is also in full swing.

The conventional method of crab display: A female is crucified on the top of the bushel, to show that she is filled with tasty eggs, as her compadres squirm and stage mock battles down below. She is a Joan of Arc among blue crabs.

The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) is a crustacean of the order Brachyura native to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. It has its own website, which explains the taxonomy, anatomy, and habitat.

The females can be readily differentiated from the males by the fact that the former have fingernails “painted” red, while the males have blue claws. Many of the crabs sold locally orignate in the Chesapeake Bay, though there is also a vigorous fishery in North Carolina. The crabs hibernate at the bottom of the ocean during the winter, and are only now emerging in some areas.

The softshell-crab season usually begins in May, when the crustaceans molt for the first time of the year.

Crabs are best eaten steamed, after being coated with Old Bay Seasoning. And you’ll need a wooden mallet and bib.

More fun than a … barrel of crabs!