As invasive green crabs continue to threaten the native clamming population and $23 million clamming industry of Maine, some call for forks.
The green crabs are native to Europe, but have dramatically increased in population in Maine due to warming temperatures. The crabs have traditionally not been good for harvesting as the hard-shell crabs fetched less than $1/pound for fishermen.
However, three food scientist graduates from the University of Maine were inspired by the Venetian dish of Moleche (fried soft-shelled crab) to make a new recipe and entice diners to feast on the invasive crab species.
A single green crab can eat over 20 soft-shell clams per day, a rate that can destroy the seafood industry quickly without immediate action. The Venetian crabs studied as part of a Main Sea Grant are similar enough to the green crabs, that Maine may have be able to use existing shrimp traps to collect crabs as they are molting and in soft-shell stage.
While the Venetians enjoy their soft-shell crab simply deep fried and served, very crabby style, the group of food scientists have proposed a more portable and perhaps palatable appetizer – empanadas!
The three food scientists: Joseph Galetti, who is now a food scientist in New Hampshire, and Beth Calder and Denise Skonberg from the University of Maine, have not only developed and empanadas recipe, but also tested it. Audiences rating them rather well for a new food, with many interested in purchasing them in the future.
A James Beard winning chef, Sam Hayward has alternate ideas for serving green crab. He shared Evan Mallett’s recipe. Evan, of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire proposes making crab croutons to add to salad.
Based on statistics of the decline of clams, the recipe work by all parties is vital. From 2011 to 2016, soft-shell clams volumes have decreased from 11 million pounds to 7.3 million, a staggering loss in just 5 years.
When next in Maine, perhaps you can pick up a crabby empanada or crabby crouton-topped salad as a side to your lobster roll – or maybe even instead. Anything to help the native shellfish population.