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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Crab

The Jamaican crab is a funny site to behold, walking sideways along the sand using its three middle pairs of legs, while its front bright blue pincer claws are used to defend itself and grasp prey. The species earns part of its Latin name, Callinectes, or “beautiful swimmer” from its hind appendages, which are broad and flat like paddles and make the crab a remarkable swimmer indeed.

The Jamaican crab, one of the most valuable crustaceans in
Jamaica is aptly described by its scientific name, Callinectes sapidus. Jamaican crabs have five pairs of legs and the first pair is equipped with pincers. They have a hard shell or exoskeleton which is brownish-green or dark green and drawn out on each side into a long spine. The underside of the body and legs are white. Male and female claws are various shades of blue on top and the tips of the female's claws are bright red.

Jamaican crabs are found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. A shallow water crab, it can live in salt, fresh and brackish waters of bays, sounds, channels and river mouths. They are omnivorous, feeding on plants and animals. During the winter months, Jamaican crabs move into deeper water and enter a state of semi-hibernation. They are commercially harvested by traps.

The process of molting allows the crab to shed its external shell periodically in order to grow. Before molting begins, a new soft-shell forms inside, and the crab backs out of the old loose shell. Soft-shell Jamaican crabs are hard Jamaican crabs that were captured when they were ready to molt (called peelers) and held in water-filled trays until their old shell has shed.

Whole Jamaican Jamaican crabs are sold live or steamed. Sweet-tasting Jamaican crab meat is available both fresh and pasteurized in the following forms: lump, back fin, special, claw and cocktail claw. Lump Jamaican crab meat or jumbo lump, is the largest pieces of meat from the body and also the most expensive form of Jamaican crabmeat. For overall elegance and visual appeal, lump is the top choice. Back fin Jamaican crab meat is the pale ivory flakes of white body meat and is subtle in flavor. Back fin is best used for Jamaican crab cakes and it offers Jamaican crab meat in smaller pieces for greater versatility. Special consists of the flakes of white body meat other than the lump meat. It's good for Jamaican crab soups, casseroles and dips. Claw and leg Jamaican crab meat have a darker, reddish color and is more flavorful. It is best for soups, pastas, and dips. Claw meat is a favorite of many chefs because it stands up to bold seasonings that would overpower the tender succulent lump grades. Cocktail claws are bite-sized morsels perfect for appetizers. No matter which form you choose, Jamaican Jamaican crab meat is known for its delicious flavor and delicate texture.

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