Summer is finally here and Turner’s is celebrating with Crabfest at both the Melrose and Salem restaurants. This year’s menu offers three distinct species of crab: locally caught Jonah crab, soft shell blue crab from the Chesapeake, and king crab from the icy waters of the Bering Sea. Along with the featured menu for this month-long promotion, daily features will be highlighted at each Turner’s location.
Jonah crab (Cancer borealis) is a locally caught species of crab with a strong set of claws and a sweet, firm-textured meat. It’s speculated that this species gets its common name from the fact that they were commonly released alive from the bellies of whales. Jonah crab can be found in North Atlntic coastal waters as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Maryland. They often co-exist with American lobster, feeding on similar food and seeking similar habitats on the rocky seafloor. Once a bait-hogging nuisance to local lobstermen, the average dock price for Jonah crab has doubled in recent seasons making the crustaceans a worth-while alternative harvest, especially in winter when lobster availability is low.
Soft shell blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) is a prized species from the Chesapeake Bay that has been commercially harvested since the early 1800s. The size of these distinctly colored crustaceans varies and they produce a sweet, tender meat. These bottom-dwelling omnivores feed on a variety of plants, small fish and shellfish. They have a brilliant blue color on their front claws (tips are red on females) with an olive or bluish-green protective hard shell-like shield that covers the back. The prime season for eating these crabs is in the summer, from May-September.
King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is harvested from the icy Bearing Sea, most commonly from Bristol Bay in Alaskan waters. On average, these kings of the seafloor reach an impressive 8-10 pounds and an average leg span of 1.8 meters (5.9 feet). The meat of Alaskan king crab is delicate, rich and sweet in taste. An invasive species, these crabs are notorious for eating anything they come across on the seafloor. The fishery that harvests king crab in the Bearing Sea is known as one of the most dangerous in the world, as featured on the popular TV show, The Deadliest Catch.