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The Delicious Decapod Soft Shell Crab a Maryland Delicacy

by Jonathan Clark

Late Spring and early Summer is the time of year for Maryland’s quintessential delicacy: softshell crabs. They’re sought after by many crab aficionados, so their supply runs low really fast.

What is it about these little critters that makes people go out in droves to eat them up? Is it their sweet flesh, the delicate crunch of their shells, or the fact that one can play with their claws like a macabre marionette? Whatever people’s fixation with the crustacean is, it cannot be denied that softshells are popular this time of year.

Softshells are not caught as softshells, but rather when they are about to molt. Since crabs molt at different rates, they are placed in buckets until they do. These crabs are known as peelers. Once they lose their hard shell they are either frozen or shipped immediately to restaurants and seafood shops.

People have their opinions on softshells, but most either love them or hate them. Principal Tracey Franklin said, “I think soft shell crabs are disgusting. I can spend hours eating hard shells, but there is something about soft shells that I find unappealing. I think it’s the idea of eating an entire animal that discourages me. I think of it being like eating a whole chicken with the feathers still attached.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who absolutely love soft shells. Sophomore Shannon Reiley enthusiastically stated, “I like them! I usually get them during Colorfest in Thurmont. There’s a seafood stand that sells them on sandwiches.” She said she prefers to “get them fried”, as the crispiness complements the soft flesh of the crab. She added, “I haven’t had any this season, but I want to soon.”

And, sadly, there are people who have never experienced dining on a soft shell. Junior Celia Miller has “never had a soft shell crab”. Her reason for not trying that she thinks “it would taste pretty weird.”

For anyone truly interested in local cuisine, a soft shell crab is a must. The delicious decapod is one of the unique foods that defines Maryland, and its limited supply makes it worth savoring even more. Therefore, people should enjoy it while it lasts.