The orange stuff inside a crab is eggs, otherwise known as roe or “coral”. These are only found on female crabs and will ultimately become baby crabs. Crab roe is edible and can be used in a range of recipes.
In this article, we will talk more about crab roe, how to identify it, and how it is typically used.
What Is the Orange Stuff in a Female Crab?
So you either caught or purchased a crab and you’re noticing it has orange stuff along the underside of its shell?
Don’t be startled the crab isn’t sick or infected, It’s simply a female crab, and those tiny orange bubbles on its underside are eggs, or “roe”.
These tiny, edible little eggs, each represent crab larvae, and potentially a future baby crab!
Located around the carapace of the female crab they can be identified by their bright orange colour and round mass shape. The eggs can be eaten raw or warmed and are rich in omega-3’s.
Many people will describe the flavour as somewhat sweet and salty and will complement it with toast and the like.
Sponge & Crab Roe Explained
As a female crab matures and mates they will grow a “sponge” and produce a mass of eggs. This mass of eggs will develop on the rear of the female crab on her underbelly and will appear as bright orange bubbles.
These orange bubbles, or eggs, are ripe internal egg masses of crab larvae. The crab will generally take from 2-9 to release the eggs after mating.
This “sponge” or mass of eggs will be attached to the crab via fine hairs, around the crab’s apron/ abdomen area and contain up to 8 million eggs, with most female crab averaging 2 million to 2.5 million eggs.
Most eggs will not survive to maturity as a male or female crab.
It should also be noted, as the female crab nears the release of the eggs they will gradually change colour from their initial bright orange to a darker more brownish shade.
Can you Harvest Female Crabs? Regulations & Local Rules
If you are crabbing and looking to harvest a female crab and her eggs you will need to ensure you are abiding by your local regulations.
Many states and provinces will have regulations on harvesting female crabs to ensure the local ecosystem is appropriately stocked.
Some states outright ban the practice of harvesting female crabs. Make sure to check in with your local fishing and hunting department.
It’s also important to know that in many places catching female crabs is looked down upon due to its impact on the local environment and habitat.
As a result, it’s generally suggested that if you are looking to eat this delicacy that you purchase it from a specialty shop.
Can you eat crab eggs?
Yes, crab eggs are edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Crab eggs or “roe” have a delicate sweet and salty flavour and are rich in omega-3’s.
Can you eat a deadman’s finger?
Deadman’s finger, otherwise known as crab lungs are not edible. The lungs of a crab will collect a range of bacteria and other items (pollutants, garbage, etc) that humans do not want to consume.
When you are preparing a crab, remove this part and throw it out prior to cooking or you will risk giving your other crab meat a bad flavour.
What is the yellow stuff inside crabs?
Turner, H., Wolcott, D., Wolcott, T., Hines, A. 2003. Post-mating behavior, intramolt growth, and onset of migration to Chesapeake Bay spawning grounds by adult female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 295:107-130.