Flickr: Zane Hollingsworth
Pea crabs are a delicacy
I can hear the gasps of horror now. Thousands of Top Chef: Charleston
viewers just mumbled to themselves, "What the fuck is a tiny crab doing in an oyster?"
The reason? Deep in an oyster roast Sudden Death Cook-Off at Boone Hall's Cotton Dock between returning cheftestant John Taser and newbie Gerald Sombright
, the latter steamed some oysters only to discover upon shucking them tiny little crabs. Gasp!
"I start to pop the oysters open and they have little small crabs in them. I cannot serve the judges crabs!" said a frantic Sombright.
Dear. God. NO. Charleston's got crabs?!
Yes. And don't freak out, America. Those Lilliputian crustaceans are normal.
In fact, what Sombright didn't realize is that finding a pea crab in an oyster is not only OK, it's a sign of good luck. For real. I swear. Here, breathe in a paper bag while I explain.
Local historian Suzannah Smith Miles says
that the pea crab is a tiny soft-shelled crustacean (Pinnotheres ostreum) that "lives symbiotically in the oyster and is considered a delicacy by gourmands when found in a steamed bivalve."
For the premiere of Top Chef: Charleston
, Bravo used ACE Basin biz St. Jude Farms' oysters and as the company's oysterman Danny Hieronymus explains, the pea crab is kind of like an oyster's canary in the coal mine.
"They're in oysters in very good, high quality water," says Hieronymous. "They live together inside the oyster and show up in water with good salinity. It's a very good sign to see them."
Hieronymus agrees that getting one in an oyster is good luck. "And they're delicious," he adds. That's right, you can eat those suckers and Hieronymous says you should. "You gotta eat the crab, that’s best part of it!"
Garden & Gun
's Jed Portman has a bit more on the itty bitty delicacies
here. But the bottom line is this: You shouldn't freak out about finding pea crabs in your oysters and Sombright shouldn't have either.