Read Time: 3 Minutes Subscribe & Share
My Miss List
As much as I have wanted to move to Italy, there exists a mental list of things I miss from home – tacos and margaritas at Taqueria Poblano, Ataulfo mangos from MOMs, Mariana Garcia’s pupusas, walking by the wide expanse of the Potomac River, shopping for clothes at Donna Lewis, and I was going to add our peerless Blue Crab. But I can strike that off the list, as they have invaded the Adriatic Sea and are considered a malignant pest. I am here to help the EU.
Like the pesky Manila clam, which attached itself to cargo ships from the Pacific Ocean and burrowed into the shoals of Le Marche and Abruzzo, my favorite crustacean from the Chesapeake Bay hitched rides on ships crossing the Atlantic and migrated to lagoons not only off Italian and Spanish coasts, but also the waters of Tunisia, Albania and Croatia.
Various state marine fisheries recorded sizeable alien blue crab colonies in 2012 although occasional specimens have been noted in fishing fleet nets as early as the 1940s. By 2016, hoards of the bright blue critters were hauled up in nets from Spanish reefs to Albanian lagoons. In fact, the sudden explosion of the Callinectes Sapidus (delectable crab) in Mediterranean waters may be due to the global warming of temperatures in our planet’s oceans and seas. Crabs hibernate beneath the sand during cold months, and their egg production (in the millions) ceases. Warmer temperatures mean shorter cold periods, and the crab’s reproduction system goes back into action.
Our beloved little crab is an omnivore and has practically wiped out local delicacies such as prized Neretva River eels – a popular feature in Croatian restaurants. Not only are they voracious eaters of any marine life they can get their claws on, but they lay millions of eggs annually and virtually have no natural enemies – a problem with all invasive species. The crabs maul and eat other captive fish and then tear apart the nets. Nets that used to be replaced after a few years are now replaced within six months. Partially eaten fish caught in the nets with the crabs are unsalable, so the earnings of subsistence fishermen are at risk. Not even farmed seafood is safe from becoming a meal – a case in point are the decimated populations of farmed vongole verace in Italy. The Italian government has been called upon to help Po River valley clam farmers in fighting the onslaught of our blue crabs. The devastation has been so complete that several thousand jobs could be terminated, as Italy is the third largest producer of clams in the world and the mother country of a dish that is appreciated globally- spaghetti alle vongole.
How To Eat A Blue Crab
Just as we do not have a tradition for eating snails in the US, populations in the Mediterranean bowl have no experience eating blue crab (wait until they learn that we pay over $50/lb for picked lump crabmeat!). In Italy, blue crab has not yet been registered as a legally saleable seafood. In other countries, this little clawed aggressor is regarded with fear and loathing. The only way, though, to curb the blue crab population is to encourage domestic consumption and create markets for export. Tunisia, with the help of marine services in the European Community and United Kingdom, encouraged domestic consumption of blue crab successfully and Tunisia is now exporting some of its C Sapidus harvests to Asian countries. I think it is my duty as a blue crab eating American to apply for a grant to show Italians the joys of crab cakes with tartar sauce, a proper crab salad, of even the messy, rapturous pastime of cracking spicy boiled blue crabs with lots of beer. And hush puppies. And key lime pie. Ah, home….
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.