If you can’s beat ‘em, eat ‘em

In­va­sive crab species in Maine may be of use in sa­vory pas­tries, say re­searchers

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BUSINESS - BY PA­TRICK WHITTLE

The un­wanted crabs that have plagued Maine’s clam beds for years might soon play a new role - as ap­pe­tizer.

Two Uni­ver­sity of Maine sci­en­tists and a for­mer grad­u­ate stu­dent be­lieve they may have found a so­lu­tion to the state’s trou­ble with in­va­sive green crabs, and it in­volves turn­ing the clawed crit­ters into sa­vory pas­tries.

The green crabs threaten Maine’s en­vi­ron­ment and econ­omy be­cause they’re rav­en­ous preda­tors of soft­shell clams, one of the state’s sig­na­ture seafood items. State of­fi­cials have said the crabs, which are na­tive to Europe, have in­creased in num­bers in re­cent years as wa­ter tem­per­a­tures off Maine rise.

Fish­er­men and state fish­ery man­agers have long strug­gled to find ways to con­trol the pop­u­la­tion by mak­ing the crabs, which net fish­er­men less than a dol­lar per pound, worth catch­ing. Now, three food sci­en­tists say they’ve hap­pened upon a food prod­uct that might just be vi­able: green crab em­panadas.

“I chose the green crab specif­i­cally be­cause it was lo­cal; it was a project af­fect­ing the state of Maine,” said Joseph Galetti, one of the sci­en­tists in­volved. “So by cre­at­ing a value-added food prod­uct that peo­ple will en­joy, we can stim­u­late a green crab fish­ery.”

And it’s not just pie in the sky. Galetti and his col­leagues have served up sam­ples to taste testers and pub­lished find­ings this year in the Jour­nal of Aquatic Food Prod­uct Tech­nol­ogy stat­ing that about two-thirds of testers would “prob­a­bly” or “def­i­nitely” buy the prod­uct if it were lo­cally avail­able.

The project was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Galetti, who is now a food sci­en­tist in New Hamp­shire, and Umaine food sci­en­tists Beth Calder and Denise Skon­berg. Calder and Skon­berg had been look­ing to cre­ate some kind of val­ueadded prod­uct in­volv­ing green crabs and re­cruited Galetti to work on the project when he was a grad­u­ate stu­dent be­cause he has a back­ground in the culi­nary arts.

The em­panada is a fried pas­try that mixes minced green crab meat with onions, corn, cayenne pep­per and thyme. The sci­en­tists say they hope the re­cent pub­li­ca­tion of their study will drive in­ter­est among food com­pa­nies in mak­ing the prod­uct com­mer­cially. The uni­ver­sity is pro­mot­ing the find­ings in the hopes of get­ting fish­er­men in­ter­ested in catch­ing green crabs and chefs in­ter­ested in cook­ing with the crit­ters.

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