Beal quoted in Boston Globe on green crab problem, should we eat them?
Green crabs have been lurking in local waters for a while. They came to wider New England awareness as an invasive species to be reckoned with in 2013, when researcher and marine ecologist Brian Beal convened a green crab summit in Orono, Maine. Spinoff meetings in Massachusetts followed. I attended those meetings, then bought a crab trap, baited it with herring and other fish, and before long was hauling hundreds of crabs at a time from a tidal estuary in the salt marshes of Ipswich.
This abundance creates a problem: What do you do with hundreds of little crabs? You can leave them in the hot sun for a few days and then add them to your compost pile. Or you can make a stock from them — and the stock, I’ve found, is unexpectedly delicious, with a long, complex flavor trail. I’d even use the foodie term “umami,’’ the fifth category of tastes, after sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. The umami effect can be subtle or it can be a flavor bomb, but either way, it enhances the other tastes in a dish and causes them to linger on your palate, like notes that hang in the air in a cathedral after the music stops. I make soups and stews. My wife makes dirty rice, a Creole dish. They’re terrific. But then what do you do with the rest of the broth?