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Can You Eat a Horseshoe Crab?

Around shallow waters by the coast, the Horseshoe Crab patrols sandy and muddy bottoms. At the beach, we often see these crustaceans easily with the naked eye, due to their hard and pointy exoskeleton as well as their ten legs. Last time I saw one of these unique “living fossils”, I wanted to know if you can actually eat a Horseshoe Crab? Here is what I found.

Actually, yeah, you can eat a Horseshoe Crab. But, their are some important things to note, as well as a few health risks that you need to be aware of. Besides the minimal amount of meat that you can technically harvest from a Horseshoe Crab, Asian culture finds their eggs to be the true delicacy for eating. However, I would not recommend eating, especially if you don’t have prior experience cooking a Horseshoe Crab. These eggs have some real bad toxins and can be dangerous for consumption.

Just because some cultures treasure particular foods, doesn’t mean you have to. There are a few things that you should understand before throwing the next Horseshoe Crab that you find on a grill. They are not your typical crab.

Eating Horseshoe Crab Eggs

The eggs or “roe” cause quite the excitement for certain cultures within different areas of Asia. It may come to a surprise that this type of food can be pretty expensive and very rare to find. However, multiple cases have been reported where the toxins within the eggs from a Horseshoe Crab caused illnesses and even in some cases, death.

An unfortunate situation was reported in both Thailand and Cambodia. Apparently, 71 people were affected with a poisoning that was a result of eating the eggs of a Horseshoe Crab. Symptoms included paresthesia, fatigue and respiratory paralysis to just name a few.

The ‘bad’ toxins have been recorded as neurotoxin and tetrodotoxin. Specifically, neurotoxin can cause damage to nerve tissues and tetrodotoxin blocks channels leading to gastrointestinal.

Clearly, not worth the risk to eat.

Eating Horseshoe Crab Flesh

Moving away from the eggs, the next part is the actual Horseshoe Crab itself. Well, as we mentioned in our initial answer, there is not much meat to eat. Technically, you can cook and consume the flesh that you can find. However, some people have actually mentioned that it could cause dizziness and an upset stomach.

While a Horseshoe Crab may appear large and heavy, the shell accounts for a lot of its mass. The shell makes up a big chunk of this creature which serves as a means of protection rather than a potential food for a predatory species.

When it comes to crustaceans, we are essentially labeling these underwater creatures as the insects of the ocean floor. Therefore, if the Horseshoe Crab’s habitat is in murky and dirty shallow waters, they may be exposed to more toxins and bacteria. To some degree, cooking kills a lot of germs. But for the Horseshoe Crab, the eggs and meat will never be completely safe for consumption. When preparing to be eaten, some toxins can never been perfectly removed.

In certain countries, like Malaysia, it is common to find a Horseshoe Crab on a menu for a fancy restaurant. Even when the dish was well prepared, tourists have still said that the Horseshoe Crab tasted funny with most citing that it was like biting into rubber. Also, they mentioned that the aftertaste was too salty, which could be attributed to their tendency to bury their bodies in the sand.

Conclusion

If you decide to consume this Horseshoe Crab, it is important to leave the preparation to the professionals. With toxins and unwanted side effects from eating, a trained and experienced chef will be better suited to handle the Horseshoe Crab. If it is your first time cooking, be sure to speak with someone who has prior experience preparing. No one wants to get ill from eating this crustacean.

We are fortunate to have so many delicious species available for consumption in our oceans. With that said, we don’t need to settle for eating a Horseshoe Crab. I understand the cool and unique experience associated with cooking and preparing this creature. But, in my opinion, the risks outweigh the rewards. With potentially toxic eggs, minimal meat and an unattractive appearance, I don’t plan to eat a Horseshoe Crab any time in the near future.

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