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Green Crabs, New England’s Invasive Critters or Culinary Delight?

Mary Park, Executive Director of GreenCrab.org, talks with Rob about how to combat an invasive species, the green crab, by eating like a Venetian.

Originally from the coast of Europe, green crabs arrived on New England’s coast in the 1800s as freeloading cargo in the ballast of ships. Over the decades, green crab populations have exploded. Climate change plays a role with milder winters killing less of these crabs.

One Green Crab is able to eat up to 40 steamers a day. Clammers hold green crabs responsible for the decline in soft shell clams. These crabs mow down eelgrass and destroy habitats. Green Crabs not only are pushing out local blue and rock crabs, but also lobsters over food and territory — even eating lobster spawn. With an ability for one crab to lay over 185,000 eggs per year, green crabs are an issue that won’t be going away any time soon.

GreenCrab.org is taking this green crab issue head-on and serving up delicious solutions. To find out how to prepare these crustaceans, they traveled to Venice, Italy, where these crabs have been a delicacy for generations. An old Venetian trick is to hold the crabs up to light and to look for marks that indicate imminent molting. These crabs are then separated into individual containers where they molt. It is these soft shell green crabs that draw people from all over world to Venice.

One of GreenCrab.org’s goals is to bring this culinary industry home and increase the demand for green crabs in the US. Mary Park is the co-author of The Green Crab Cookbook, recommended by the New York Times. Recipes in this book explore the vast potential for cooking with these ecologically destructive critters. In addition to Italian style soft shell, crab stock, popcorn crabs, green crab caviar, and Vietnamese crab are among the many tasty recipes available in this cookbook.

With green crabs bursting out of tidepools and subtidal areas, it is easy to put green crabs (dinner!) in a pail. To save the ocean from this invasive species, Mary says “if you can’t beat em, eat em.”

To find out more, check out this short film called “Recipe for Disaster: Green Crabs in the Great Marsh.”

Click here for the audio file to listen to Green Crabs, New England’s Invasive Critters or Culinary Delight?