On Saturday, I had one of my most favorite blog experiences ever. I spent a beautiful day on the Chesapeake Bay learning about and eating Maryland crabs and oysters. Steve Vilnit, the Director of Fisheries Marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, organized the trip and taught us so much about the history, business, and deliciousness of our local seafood. We went crab fishing with our seasoned captain Billy, toured J.M Clayton the world’s oldest crab processing company, hung around the Choptank Sweets oyster farm, and finished the day up with a killer meal at Ocean Odyssey. Did I mention it was the most splendid day?
Before we get to all the pretty pictures, let me tell you a secret. I don’t like seafood. I eat barbecue chicken when my family eats lobster on Nantucket. I’ve actually spit out salmon roe before because it was the most unpleasant, non-stop explosion of fish bubbles in my mouth. Yet, I jumped on the chance to go on this trip. Let’s just say it’s part of my new try-anything, live-it-up, 25-is-my-year mantra. And honestly, it’s working really well for me. Before this year, I didn’t like tequila, coconut, or seafood. And now I find myself food-dreaming about these things. I just loved the crab and oysters we ate this weekend on the Chesapeake and I can’t wait for my next seafood adventure. Check it mom and dad, I’m all grown up!
So aside from soaking in the gorgeous scenery with some great company, I learned so much about Maryland crabs and oysters and I want to share some of that with you.
- Only a very small number of restaurants that say they serve “Maryland crab” on their menu, actually do. This is so absurd. So this is why Steve started the Maryland True Blue program, which certifies restaurants and providers who carry only local Chesapeake seafood. You can find that list here. Go out and support these spots and be sure to start asking where your crab is coming from!
- Crabbing and crab picking is an art form. Our captain Billy strung out a line over a mile long with hand-tied razor clam bags every few feet (he does this every night!), and he taught us about the strength and patience it takes to bring in bushels of crabs every day to make a living. On a weekday, J.M. Clayton has around 90 crab pickers working to pull and package the meat from the fresh crabs. Some of the fastest pickers (with small and nimble fingers) can turn out up to 60 pounds of crab meat in a day!
- Oysters are best served fresh on the shore of the farm they were bred in, by the guy (that’s Bubba) who tends to them every day. Throw in a bunch of beers, a ton of knowledge, and over 2 million baby oysters, and well, that’s a whole lot of oyster love.
Can you see why I had such a great day? I can’t wait to go back, explore more of the Chesapeake, and eat more seafood. To see more of our trip, catch up with my crabbing companions: Jenna, Tammy, Laetitia, Amanda, and Deb.
I may never get use to salmon juice bubbles popping in my mouth, but I certainly can get on board with crab tots and oysters “Bubba-feller” (they’re named after our guy at Choptank Sweets and have garlic and bacon on them!) I’m now a True Blue believer.