Can You Eat A Horseshoe Crab? (What does it taste like?)

Can You Eat A Horseshoe Crab

Not so many people know about horseshoe crabs, and a lot of those who do know about this creature don’t have the answer to the question, “Can you eat a horseshoe crab?” So, is this crustacean edible? Yes, the horseshoe crab is edible, but not for most ”parts.” We cannot eat its meat because it contains Tetrodotoxin, a toxin that causes foodborne and dizziness. What we actually eat from the “crab” is actually the eggs (also known as the “roe”).  Thus, if you want to know how to process and cook these crabs (and also a few cool facts about them), read along! 

Horseshoe Crabs: What Are They?

Horseshoe crabs have existed for over 300 million years, making them one of the oldest creatures on earth. So yes, they’re even older than dinosaurs. 

Appearance

Although their semblance appears quite similar to ancient crustaceans, they are strongly associated with scorpions and spiders. Indeed, these horseshoe crabs possess a thick shell and ten legs for crawling on the seabed. Female horseshoe crabs are around 1/3 the size of males. They may mature to the size of 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) long from snout to tail, with males around 14 to 15 inches (36 to 38 cm).

Public Health Ministry Warns against Eating Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs
Public Health Ministry Warns against Eating Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs

Species

There are 4 extant horseshoe crabs varieties around the world.  The most popular type of horseshoe crab is the Limulus polyphemus, which resides in the US and thrives in the Atlantic Gulf throughout the North American shoreline. Moreover, you may also locate this horseshoe crab species throughout the East and Gulf coastlines of the US And Mexico. 

There are 4 extant horseshoe crabs varieties around the world.
There are 4 extant horseshoe crabs varieties around the world.

There are 3 more varieties of horseshoe crab around the globe, which are found around the Asian coasts in the Indian and Pacific oceans.  Indeed, the Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda (the round-tailed horseshoe crabs), the Tachypleus gigas (the Indo-Pacific, Indonesian horseshoe crab), and the Tachypleus tridentatus (the tri-spine horseshoe crab) all love the saline and tropical saltwater. 

Habitats and Production

Horseshoe crabs inhabit various settings based on their developmental phase. Around the end of spring and early summertime, horseshoes crab lays its eggs on coastal shores. The young horseshoe crabs could be spotted ashore on the shallow sea’s surface of mudflats upon hatching.

See how they mate: Horseshoe Crabs Mate in Massive Beach “Orgy” | National Geographic Mature horseshoe crabs go further out in the water before returning to the shore to reproduce. Horseshoe crab eggs are an essential element of the diets of many seabirds, migrating species, tortoises, and fish. And thus, horseshoe crabs are an essential part of the food chain and our ecosystem.

Food

Horseshoe crabs prefer to feed larvae and mussels during nighttime, and they could also consume phytoplankton.  A horseshoe crab usually uses extensions on the head to pull in the prey. Then, it smashes the prey with its legs before transferring the prey to its mouth. The reason behind this movement is that horseshoe crabs lack a jaw and teeth.

How To Process Horseshoe Crabs

Before actually cooking the horseshoe crabs, you have to clean them and process them properly. As horseshoe crabs are poisonous, any misstep could result in foodborne and dizziness.

Clean the shell

To begin, give the horseshoe crabs a fast wash under cold tap water to gently eliminate unwanted dirt or debris that may be sticking to their body. Then, you could scrub the shell with a brush to remove any stubborn debris (optional). After that, deface your crabs. We recommend using a nice pair of cooking scissors for this, although a sharp knife would manage in a hurry, just not a soft-shell pinch, since such flabby claws are useless.

Clean the shell
Clean the shell

Trim the extensions on the head of your horseshoe crab. These antennas are near the horseshoe crab’s eyes and mouth sections, and you could utilize scissors or a knife to eliminate them quickly. If your tool is sharp enough, these antennas should all fall off in one attempt.

Process the horseshoe crabs

Before collecting their eggs, you must process your horseshoe crabs. You could prepare this using one of 2 following methods.  One method is to steam the entire horseshoe crab over hot water till their eggs are nicely cooked. Another option is to roast the horseshoe crab for around 5 mins, or till their eggs are cooked.

Process the horseshoe crabs
Process the horseshoe crabs

Afterward, remove the exoskeleton and retrieve their eggs, which you may find on the horseshoe crab’s lower portion. Although this sounds easy, it’s actually the most challenging part of the process. Indeed, the guy who collects the eggs (or roe) from the horseshoe crabs must have the proper techniques to avoid mixing the eggs with the crab’s remaining inedible portions. If these eggs become infected by the existing poison, you may be ill and suffer from dizziness, foodborne illness symptoms, and other digestive tract issues.

How To Cook Horseshoe Crabs

Horseshoe Crab Egg Salad is the most famous dish regarding horseshoe crab eggs. This dish originates from Thailand and has become one of their signature dishes. Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup processed horseshoe crab eggs
  • 2 tbsps fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lemon extract, about 1 big lemon 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 2  fresh Thai chilies, minced, or 1 tsp pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsps sliced shallot
  • 1 cup diced fresh mangoes or apples (approximately half of green mango or 2 apples) 
  • 1/4 cup Chinese celery, sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup cashew nuts, chopped
  • 2 lettuce leaves

Whisk the fish sauce, lemon extract, palm sugar, and pepper flakes in a big mixing bowl to prepare the vegetable dressings. Whisk till the palm sugar has dissolved completely. Once fully blended, add the Israel vermicelli plus horseshoe crab eggs, chopped shallot, diced mango, sliced Chinese celery, and cashew nuts. Put lettuce leaves on a dinner platter and fill it with the salad ingredients. Pour the dressing on top, and serve immediately.

How To Cook Horseshoe Crabs
How To Cook Horseshoe Crabs

Most people claim that the texture of horseshoe crab’s eggs is a bit chewy and rubbery. Also, the orange eggs and the green ones are somewhat different, with the former one being saltier.  This is one of those things that, as most people say, you need to try for yourself to determine whether you enjoy it or not.

What Is Horseshoe Crab Blood Used For?

It might sound strange, but the blood of a horseshoe crab is a vivid blue. This is because it contains vital immunity components that are highly responsive to harmful infections.  Once those cells come into contact with infecting pathogens, they solidify and defend the remaining of the horseshoe crab’s system against poisons. Thus, scientists utilized those brilliant blood cells to create the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate, abbreviated LAL, test, which examines experimental vaccinations for safety. 

What Is Horseshoe Crab Blood Used For
What Is Horseshoe Crab Blood Used For

Since the 1970s, this approach has been utilized everywhere globally to prevent medical experts from testing shots containing dangerous pathogens on humans.  Horseshoe crabs’ blood is indeed beneficial for humanity since vaccination tested on them protects us from a wide range of illnesses, such as smallpox and rubella. However, it’s not excellent news for horseshoe crabs since countless crabs are picked up and bled annually for drug testing.

See why we collect horseshoe crabs’ blood here: Why do we harvest horseshoe crab blood? – Elizabeth Cox

Regarding the Covid-19

The world is striving to develop an effective vaccine to combat Covid-19, a deadly lung infection that has ravaged the globe. And over 100 experimental vaccines are now being developed in the belief that one of them will be efficacious. And of course, the successful shots will need to be thoroughly tested before being distributed. Horseshoe crab blood will be helpful in key experiments in other regions of the globe. Furthermore, because we’ll need to vaccinate thousands of people within a short period, horseshoe crabs might contribute significantly to the overall fight against Coronaviruses.

Wrapping Up

Now you know the answer to the question, “Can you eat a horseshoe crab?” Although their eggs are edible, many consider the experience unappealing due to the chewy texture and weird taste of these “roes.”  What about you? Have you ever tried eating horseshoe crabs before? Tell us in the comment section below! 

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