It’s that time of year again when the seasonal rains drive land crabs out of their holes and onto local roads.
One crab hunter last week captured in Bodden Town what he described as the biggest crab he’d ever seen.
Richard Gonzales called it a “king of a crab.”
Gonzales, along with fellow crab hunter Peter Jervis, gets a kick out of tracking down and capturing the crabs, which make for some good eating after a little preparation beforehand.
Jervis says it is best to go crabbing around sunset because that is when the crabs come out to feed.
“Catching crabs is good fun. Sometimes you get ‘down and dirty’ while on the hunt, but that is part of the fun,” said another crab catcher, Jordan Hartmann.
There is an art to catching crabs, he explains. If there is a lot of noise, the crabs will scurry away. If you listen carefully, you can hear the crabs eating and rustling the bushes. Shining a light into the crab’s eye will keep it from running. Then, reach down and place your hand over the back of the crab and with your fingers entwined between the legs, pick it up and place it in a sack. But be careful, because crabs tend to spin around when you hold them and can give you a nasty pinch, Hartmann warns.
They sometimes will prefer to lose a claw clinging to your hand before letting go, the crab catchers explained.
Jervis added, “I don’t know how he does it, but one friend of mine can catch and hold six crabs in his hands at one time. How he keeps the crabs from pinching his fingers, God knows.”
“There are many ways to cook crabs – people have all different styles but how we do it is boil them with seasoning and green bananas until they are fully cooked and either eat it right from the shell or fry it up,” Jervis said.
He said the crabs are placed in a large bin, washed off and fed cucumber, lettuce and carrots to purge them of toxins in their digestive tracts.
Anything like bread or any type of sugars, he said, will feed the toxins. “It will make a poisoning worse, so you have to give them something that will alkalize their digestive track. Lettuce, carrots, cucumbers [are] the best because it cleans them out very quickly,” he said.
Jervis explains the process: “Find your biggest pot if you have lots of crabs – fill it with water, add seasoning and bring to a boil. Once you add the crabs to the pot of boiling water, the only thing to do now is wait, which is usually about 30 minutes if you are eating them out of the shell. If they will be picked and fried, 10 to 15 minutes will do.”
When cooked, the crabs will turn a bright orange color, similar to lobster.
The crabs are usually laid out on a makeshift or picnic table to make it easier to select, he said. It can also be quite messy: that is why most crab eating and picking is done outside. Sometimes teeth are used when bare hands and mallet fail to do the work fast enough.
According to Jervis, his friends snap and suck the meat out of the shell, and everyone finds a good story to tell of the big one that got away.
“If we are going to eat it as a sit down meal, we pick the crab from the shell into a large bowl, fry it with onions, Scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper, salt and coconut oil and serve it on a bed of white rice. Some people like it with boiled breadfruit,” said Jervis.
Getting the meat from the shell can be quite a feat if you do not know how. Jervis explains the process: The shell is beat open, the meat extracted, then dipped or soaked in the mixture of peppered lime and vinegar and savored just out of the shell.
“The light chatter and breaking of crabs creates an air of merriment, festivity and camaraderie among the group,” he said.
The cleanup is usually quick and simple: rake the crab shells into a bucket or garbage bin and cart it off to the dump.