Do it for the crabs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Maryland Blue Crab,
Photo from

Today I received an invitation to join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Gardeners for the Bay, and I signed on without hesitation. The population of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs -- the paragon of local food for us Marylanders -- has declined by an astonishing 70 percent since 1990. 70 percent! And that decline is attributed in part to pollution from farms, cities, roads - everything we do to the land that washes away down river.

As a Marylander, I cannot imagine a single summer going by without at least one opportunity to devour a pile of steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs; they're a delicacy. And eating blue crabs is really an experience. It's sitting down to table covered with a big sheet of butcher paper; sleeves rolled up; wooden mallet, roll of paper towels, and bucket by one's side. It's the sound of peeling into shell, the scent of sea meets spice, and the exceptional flavor of each sweet little morsel inside. For 10 minutes, its just you and that crab, your devotion punctuated with dips of vinegar and melted butter and gobs of Old Bay Seasoning accumulating on your finger tips. Add ice cold drinks and greasy-fried hush puppies on the side. This is summer in Maryland.

Photo by imageining

Shortly after we moved into our Maryland home almost a year ago, we learned about BayScaping. That's just a fancy term for landscaping set within the context of and for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay. The concept is simple: plant native species that reduce the need for chemical pesticides and help prevent erosion, thereby keeping the bad stuff out of the Bay.

While I avoid the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in my garden as it is, it's been a goal of mine to add more native plants. We do, in fact, have plans to tear out the entire front lawn and replace it with perennial flowers, shrubs, and native grasses. We're driven mainly by the desire to have less of a boring lawn to mow, but we also want to do our part for our beloved bay and our favorite crustaceans therein. Our yard is just one little corner of the world, but we can do our part with it, and what we do here does matter downstream. Everything is connected.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes portions of six states -- Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware -- and the District of Columbia. So, if you're gardening in one of those places, sign on to Gardeners for the Bay and make an effort to do something in your garden or yard to save this natural treasure. Do it for me. Do it for you. Do it for the crabs.

Blue crabs -- How you can help
Chesapeake Club -- Learn how to "Save the Crabs, Then Eat 'Em"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you left out one important factor for the declining of the crabs: the fact that you, and hundreds of thousands of other Marylanders (likely millions of people total if you included the other surrounding states), are EATING them. If you were truly concerned about the crab population, you'd stop eating them. In fact, you wouldn't make a post stating something to the effect of, "It doesn't really matter to me that the crabs are all being killed off, except that then, I won't be able to eat them. Oh no!"

10:53 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Not eating them won't bring them back if nothing is done to save their enviroment. Letting people know that a very tasty meal is going to be lost might enlighten some people.
I lived in PG County for 10+ years and in the summer the ex and I bought a dozen crabs every Friday night....Boy do I miss those crabs! Some family members down there bring some up when they come to visit...and they are coming this weekend! Now I am off to check out the link.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh how I love crab.

I don't eat it often though as I live too far inland to get really good crab ( in my opinion).

1:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

We spent summers between 1983-1993 at the Smithsonian's Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, south of Annapolis.

Of course, crab populations were a concern then, too, and there were folks studying the factors involved, but I was alarmed to read in a Chesapeake Bay Foundation newsletter about the recent,crash in crab populations.

Unfortunately, V is incorrect in thinking that eating crabs is a problem; it's degradation of habitat, and runoff of excessive nutrients from farming and cities that needs to be corrected to 'Save the Bay' and its bounty. So adding plants that help filter and absorb the runoff (and converting lawn to something more beneficial) is always a good thing. All of that will help restore a little bit of the balance in the Chesapeake Bay estuary, but certainly it will take a concerted effort.

Keep planting!

11:16 PM  
Blogger The Homely Animal said...

Great information on your blog. What a good read!

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a fellow Marylander, it was nice to read your post. I think most folks with their huge expanses of green lawns, upon which they pour tons of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, really have no idea they are affecting the bay. We are slowly reducing our lawn, and we try to avoid icides unless we have no other choice - then we use targeted ones and we use them sparingly. Being from Florida originally, I grew up eating crabs but never really experienced them the good way until I got to MD. I hope we can all help ALL the bay's creatures by modifying our icide habits. You're making a great start.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

Hi! I live with my German husband in San Diego after 11 and 1/2 years in the D.C. area and discovered your website while looking for a pickled cherry pepper recipe. I just had to turn to my bookshelf for the Chez Panisse Vegetable Cookbook. My peppers are from Chino Farms, which organic farm, championed by Alice Waters, here has cult status. Now as for the crabs, I took for granted buying tubs of fresh-picked crabmeat at the Giant grocery emporium or feasting on blue crabs after sailing to an island in the Chesapeake. Not to mention the soft-shells, sigh! Your photos are beautiful. I have just a large patio garden--lemon tree in a wine barrel, tomatoes, herbs, zucchini for the flowers, roses, wild and cultivated strawberries. Thanks for the memories!--Michele

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are experiencing similiar issues with the blue claw crabs in New Jersey. I look forward to crab season every year for decades.. Do you know of any orginizations in the New Jersey area?

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um yeah that's my picture.. i have attribution rights and cite the need to notify me when using my pictures. please do so in the future.

1:51 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Thank you for notifying me about this. A photographer myself, I take this seriously. I thought the attribution requirement was satisfied by a link back to your site; I didn't realize I needed to notify you also. I'm sorry -- It was an honest mistake. I'll be sure to contact you if I use another of your photos in the future. ~Christa

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks! yeah it's not required but most photographers, myself included, like to know where our work is used :) i've checked it out and really like your blog, btw.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:12 AM  

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