Stone crab season has begun, so it’s time to get cracking — literally!
Stone crab claws are a delicacy harvested almost exclusively from Florida waters. In fact, it’s often referred to as the Florida stone crab. You can find them farther north and farther south, but Florida accounts for about 98 percent of the U.S. stone crab market.
And what’s really nice about stone crabs is that you can enjoy the meat of the claw without killing the crab. Fishermen pull the crabs from traps off the Florida waters — both the Gulf and the Atlantic — twist off the claw (usually just the larger of the two claws), then toss the crab back into the water to go off and grow another tasty claw. Only one claw is removed so that the crab can defend itself against predators. It is possible for a crab to survive without claws because they are not needed for the crab to feed. It’s illegal to remove the claw from an egg-bearing female crab.
During its lifetime, which is about 10 years, a stone crab can regenerate its claws three of four times. So that puts Florida stone crabs high on the list of sustainable seafoods.
Here’s something you may not know about stone crabs. They have one large claw, called the crusher, which can exert pressure of 19,000 pounds per square inch, and a smaller one, called the pincher. The large claw can be on either side: if it’s on the right side, the crab is considered right-handed; if it’s on the other side, it’s a lefty. I wonder if the fishermen use traps with left-handed gates on them?
Want to give stone crabs a try? I recommend Big Fin Seafood Kitchen. I talked to owner Bobby Moore as he was driving across Alligator Alley from Miami, where he’d just picked up 100 pounds, on his way to the Gulf coast where he has another 100 pounds waiting for him. He’s serving “super colossal” claws, which are 14 to 18 ounces each (please see reference above to the crushing aspect of the crab’s big claw), for $49.95.
So far the conditions have been poor for crab trappers. But the season runs through May 15, so there’s plenty of time for the traps to start filling up.
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is at 8046 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It’s open for dinner daily. Here’s a link to bigfinseafood.com. The phone number is 407-615-8888.