By Steven Mayer
The Stone Crab, or Menippe mercenaria, is a crustacean native to the western North Atlantic Ocean. Typically found off of North America’s eastern shores, Florida is the not-so-secret locale where the best tasting stone crab specimens can be found. This crab is known for its prized pincers; speckled orange claws with black tips weighing in around a half pound or more. Due to overfishing, the stone crab came close to extinction in the 1960s, but they have since been given time to repopulate and are now better understood.
One of Nature’s triumphs, the stone crab is an ultimate sustainable seafood. When trapping, the fishermen must release egg-bearing females unharmed and can only take one claw from each crab, which breaks away easily and regenerates in 12 to 18 months. Using this crustacean defense mechanism to our advantage, we can enjoy a never-ending supply of stone crab; however, environmental conditions and pollution need to be considered as well if we want to continue enjoying these creatures. It takes about a year for stone crabs to fully mature, but if a claw measures at least 4” from pincer to joint it can be harvested. Fishermen often pay a price for taking their claws though; one pinch can exert 19,000 lb of pressure per square inch!
With most seafood, the nutritional benefits are great, and stone crab is no exception. They are a lean, protein-rich food, and a good source of minerals like magnesium and selenium. Also, aquatic toxins and methylmercury are not a factor with crabs and other shellfish, so they are safe to eat.
Stone crab season runs from October 15th to May 15th, which makes them an excellent holiday food and winter delicacy. Before purchasing, buyers should make sure the claws come from Florida, because there are other crabs sold as stone crabs which pale in comparison in regards to taste and texture. Stone crab meat has a sweet taste, a satisfying density, and ranges in color from ivory to tan. After boiling, stone crab claws can be eaten with melted butter or fresh lime juice to enhance their flavor. Stone crab is a true delicacy and a must-try for seafood lovers and skeptics alike.
Here at Di Bruno Bros. we make a creamy Dijon sauce that comes complimentary with our fresh stone crab, and we can also crack their shells for you or give tips on how to prepare them at home. These crabs are only in season for another four months and are not worth missing! Stop in our seafood department right off at 18th Street and try this Atlantic treasure for yourself.