Attention soft-shell crab aficionados: The season is here but fleeting for these early spring delicacies.
Ellie Berry of Crosby's Fish & Shrimp Co. on Folly Road says that while cooler temperatures have slowed things down, she estimates only seven to 10 days at most before live and local crabs will be gone.
But Rial Fitch, owner of Mount Pleasant Seafood on Shem Creek, thinks he'll have live soft-shells for at least two more weeks. “The season is generally anywhere from three to six weeks long. It's hard to tell.”
Not to worry. Both markets freeze live soft-shells to extend their availability. “We try to freeze up enough to last two or three months,” Fitch says.
Crosby's crabs are priced at $5 apiece, and Mount Pleasant sells them for $6.
The molting process is triggered when the water temperature reaches 66 to 68 degrees and a full or new moon occurs. Then young female crabs that are ready to mate shed their shells. Their bodies remain in a soft state and are almost entirely edible until the new shell hardens.
Berry says 2013 was a different year for the soft-shells because of the chilly spring. “They want warmer weather,” which meant the season began close to a month later than last year, when the Lowcountry had an unusually mild winter.
Berry reports the size of the soft-shells has been about average this year.