27 Dec 2006

Fresh Crabs

Dear Blue Lobster:

As a kid, I always enjoyed hunting for crabs. It was just a lot of goddamned fun. Now, as a successful restauranteur, I don't have that kind of time. As I said, I'm very successful. I wonder, is there any way I could use an old water well behind my restaraunt to grow my own damn crabs?


Dear Gentle Sir:

As a restauranteur, you most likely serve marine species of crab, probably either the Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) or the Dungeness crab (Cancer magister). Other species are fished and sold commercially in other parts of the world as well. But all of these species are salt-water, and well water is fresh water. Without the proper salinity, any marine species will perish in a matter of hours or days.

Having said that, there are ways to modify your well to accommodate such creatures.

First, your well should have a surface area of at least thirty square feet, which will ensure plenty of oxygen will be able to admix with the water. Without this admixture, your crabs will suffocate. Call a land contractor to redig and rebuild your well. This could run into several thousands of dollars, so when planning this with your contractor, be sure to make the well large enough so that you can later harvest profitably.

Secondly, get to know a local chemical supply company. You'll need unrefined sea salt (actually a medley of minerals harvested from sea water) to augment your fresh water. Optimally, you should buy from a supplier who harvests from the same waters as the crabs you wish to grow come from. In a pinch, however, pet store sea salt can be used.

After careful measurement of your well water, you will then formulate the proper dosage of sea minerals to mimic the crabs' natural habitat. You may have to call upon marine researchers from the area your crabs originate to ask about water conditions. A friendly professor at a local university might also be a good resource.

Once you have an appropriate well, you must buy live crab specimens and, once received, dump them into the well. You can do this by taking them out of their packaging, clipping the bands around their claws, and literally just tossing them down the well. After they have settled, which take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day, you can begin feeding them.

Proper feed for crabs is the same no matter the species. Earthworms, maggots, snails, and leftover shrimp and lobster scraps may be tossed into the well. Vegetables are also important, and you may feed them based on how you want to flavor them later. Onions, garlic, leeks, etc. all work well for Italian seafood tastes. Leafy greens can be thrown in as filler too.

If you live in a temperate clime, feed them daily during the summer and reduce this to once every two or three days during the winter. The reason for this is that crabs are exothermic (meaning their body temps are the same as their environment) and their metabolism slows or quickens depending on the weather and water temp.

With your new venture in place, your patrons should notice and appreciate the freshness of your well-bred crabs. Good luck with your business!

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