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Oyster Crabs: Yummmm Or Yecccch?

Alert — and hungry — “06880” reader Andy Yemma writes:

We like to eat fresh oysters, especially in summer, and get them from a variety of spots. Last Sunday we stopped in at Westfair Fish & Chips, across from Stop & Shop. They were doing great business selling delicious fried oysters, clams, oysters on the half shell, lobster rolls, fries, etc. I bought a dozen nice-sized blue points for $12.

Later that evening while shucking them I came across something new. I’ve shucked a lot of oysters but had never seen this. And you’ll never see it in a restaurant.

It was a pea-sized object of some kind, I thought — maybe the beginnings of a pearl. I scraped it off into the trash, and went on to the next oyster. Hmm, another one of these tiny things. I took out my reading specs for a better look.

Damn if it wasn’t looking back at me! It was a tiny crab with a tiny crab face, pincers — the works.

I showed it to my wife. She acted like she’d seen a mouse.

An oyster crab — though not Andy Yemma’s. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

I did what any alert “06880” reader would do: I googled “Oysters with tiny crabs inside.” Damn if they don’t have a Wikipedia entry: “The oyster crab, Zaops ostreus, is a small, whitish or translucent crab in the family Pinnotheridae. Found specifically in oysters, it is an edible sea food delicacy.”

Edible? Apparently they were well received by the food critics of the New York Times – about 125 years ago! The Oyster Crab Salad: “A dish that is as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.” Well, that was in the heyday of New York Harbor’s oyster business (before pollution killed most of them off).

I found oyster crabs in 3 more shells. Didn’t have the courage to nibble them. As far as pleasing to the eye, not so much. But neither are oysters for that matter.

We ate our dozen oysters with a tiny bit of trepidation. They were delicious as usual. And no repercussions. I kind of wished I’d saved the buggers.

Next time.

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