And other notes on the Chesapeake’s prized crustacean.
‘Best Crabs of the Year’
Every May marks the beginning of the crab season. Clawed crustaceans spread over paper-covered tables, ready to be hammered and picked in summer’s ultimate feast. Once the weather starts to cool and school is back in session, many start to think about the Chesapeake’s other jewel: oysters. But crabs aren’t over yet. September is their peak.
“September and October are the best months for crabs,” says Dave Miller, owner of Captain Catoctin’s Crabs & Concoctions, which opened this Fourth of July. “People were mad that I waited to open this place, thinking I was missing the height of crab season, but we are only now on the cusp of the best crabs of the year.” –Elissa Davis
The scientific name of blue crabs, meaning “beautiful savory swimmer”
The number of days crab season will be ending early this year due to population concerns. Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources
The maximum estimated number of adult female blue crabs at the beginning of the 2017 season. Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Maryland vs. Virginia
Though the blue crabs of the Chesapeake are often known as Maryland crabs, that’s not the whole truth.
In 2015, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made headlines when he said in an interview, “All crabs are born in Virginia, and they end up, because of the current, being taken [to Maryland]. So really, they should be Virginia crabs.”
The comment was met with playful anger from the office of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Matthew Clark, Hogan’s communications director, prepared a response: “Like most Virginians with any sense, eventually the crabs move north to Maryland, where the waters are much more inviting and hospitable.”
The path of the blue crabs starts around the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Once crabs mate, female crabs travel to the saltier waters of Virginia to give birth. When the baby crabs are born, the current pulls them to the Maryland waters, where the males also live. –ED
‘It’s like Kleenex’
Old Bay is synonymous with Chesapeake crabs, the seasoning seared into our memories. Or so we think.
“It’s like Kleenex,” says Ginger Ports, the vice president of J.O. Seasoning. She says Old Bay, with its corporate marketing budget, is these days “a generic term.”
The company she married into—her husband’s grandfather started the Baltimore-based brand—is actually the spice blend used in Northern Virginia crab houses. J.O. supplies No. 2 Crab House Spice or a custom blend developed for the boil: The coarse salt helps the spices adhere to the shells. –Stefanie Gans
Crab feast at home
Don’t want to boil? FreshDirect delivers a dozen steamed crabs (pictured), plus mallets, bibs and butcher paper in its Maryland Blue Crab Party Pack for $29.99.