Beyond azaleas blooming, birds chirping, and bridge runners running, there’s another major signal that spring is in the air – and waters – of the Lowcountry! Between mid to late March, soft-shell crabs, or “softies” as we occasionally call them, start showing up throughout our waterways. However, the first sign of softies does not guarantee a constant supply; availability can be hit or miss because weather and lunar cycles affect these unarmored arthropods.
First off – soft-shell crabs aren’t actually their own “species” – they are blue crabs molting! Each spring, blue crabs start shedding, or molting, their hard shells so they can grow. During their molt, the crabs are temporarily without their hard shell exposing a delicate, thin skin and leaving them vulnerable to predation. This makes them fully edible—legs and all! In an attempt to protect themselves, shortly after molting, the crabs will bury themselves in mud, so crabbers usually harvest them beforehand and place them in holding tanks until they’re ready to shed their shells. Right after shedding, the crabs are ready for consumption.
Executive Chef Deljuan Murphy of Fleet Landing knows how to cook up a softie sandwich, complete with a soft-shell crab battered and “deep fried to perfection.” Atop a brioche bun, the tomato-bacon jam and baby spinach brought out the flavor of the sweet and salty softie. Be sure to check out the Good Catch Pinterest board for other soft-shell crab recipes as well as other sustainable seafood ideas.
Whether these sustainable softies are fried, grilled or sautéed, there’s no denying these unique, local treats are delicious. Their season is only a few weeks long, so keep an eye out for them on the menus of Good Catch partners. And remember, even when softies are not in season, local blue crab is a “good catch” all year long!