How New England's Jonah Crab Turned From Garbage To Delicacy

Ten years ago, the Jonah crab was basically garbage: a bycatch that would turn up in lobster traps and, usually, be tossed back into the cold New England water. That's all beginning to change.

The Jonah crab is a medium-sized crab, ranging from brownish to reddish to greyish, boasting big claws tipped with black. During the winter, when most of the year’s crabs are caught along the Atlantic coast from Maine down to Rhode Island, it has an exceedingly hard shell, requiring a hammer or a saw to open. It’s mostly served as a plate of the large claws, with someone else taking care of scoring and cracking them open for the customer.

If this reminds you of Florida’s famed stone crab, which sells for about $30 a pound, you’re on the right track; the two species are very similar in appearance and even flavor. And yet until just a few years ago, the Jonah crab cost about $0.50 a pound. Or it was free. “Lobstermen would pull them up and in most cases have no idea what to do with the things, so they’d usually just throw them back,” says Bryan Holden, a partner at Luke’s Lobster who’s been right at the forefront of the Jonah crab’s transformation. (Luke is his brother.)

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