Every summer, seafood lovers from Maryland to Miami go into a dead faint when they hear the joyful news that softshell crabs are in season. The Atlantic Blue crab (callinectus saidus) ranges up and down the Eastern seaboard and even into the Gulf of Mexico. When the water is warm, these tasty crustaceans shed their hard shells and — voíla — softshell crabs.
And while the crusty culinarians of Baltimore and the Eastern Shore will tell you there's nothing, absolutely nothing, that can compare with a Maryland blue crab, we have bad news for them: Florida has the same exact crab. And while their softshell season is all done by September, Florida blues will keep molting right on through November.
We usually get our softshell blues from Apalachicola Bay, where the combination of just-right salinity and higher temperatures gets the action going early and keeps it going past Halloween.
How to buy blues? Keep these tips in mind:
• If they're wrapped in cellophane, pass them up. They were frozen.
• The outside should be very soft. If they've started to firm up, they're "papershells" that were left in the water too long after they started to molt and have begun growing a new hard shell.
• They should have all of their legs and claws.
Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to prepare softshells — I'm partial to battering the crab and frying it whole — but everyone agrees softshells are a delicious summertime treat that shouldn't be missed.
Lighthouse Seafood is a family business, owned and operated by Tim and Heather O'Leary.
They have supplied Central Florida restaurants and residents with prime seafood for more than a decade.
Their commitment is to always have only the freshest seafood for your table.
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101 N. Country Club Rd.
Lake Mary, FL 32746
8780 E CR 466
The Villages, FL 32162