Moeche Crab

Ark of taste
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The green crab (Carcinus aestuarii) is the most common crab species in the Mediterranean Sea—as a matter of fact, in Italy it is often called the “common crab.” This species can withstand fluctuating salinity and temperatures and is particularly well adapted to lagoons and shallow water. In the lagoon north of Venice, this crab is the focus of a special activity, something in between fishing and extensive animal farming: moeche crab picking. Fishers have sustained the practice of selecting molting crabs for at least three centuries. During this phase of their life cycle, crabs lose their shell and are therefore soft and tender—moeche means “soft” in the Venetian dialect. Harvesting moeche is a seasonal activity based on the natural growth of the crabs, and it generally peaks in spring and autumn. Crabs are caught with gillnets placed in the lagoon’s shallow waters. They are then carefully selected, separating boni crabs (those that will molt within the next 1-3 weeks) from spiantani crabs (which will molt in a couple of days) and matti crabs (which will not molt during the picking season). While matti crabs are thrown back into the sea, spiantani and boni crabs are kept separately in special containers called vieri. These containers used to be completely made of wicker, but now consist of spaced wooden planks to allow water to circulate within the box. Vieri are lowered into the shallow waters close to the canals. Vieri are checked and cleaned by fishers who harvest moeche crabs, eliminate dead crabs and shells, and move boni crabs that gradually become spiantani crabs. Once the moeche crabs are removed from the water, they are kept alive in refrigerated boxes for 2-3 days and eventually sold. Moeche crabs must be cooked alive. They are cut open with a knife and then squeezed to remove all the remaining water. They are then dusted with flour and thrown in boiling oil, where the greenish, soggy creatures turn into crispy golden-red delicacies, developing a sweet flavor that recalls seaweed and seawater. Another recipe requires the moeche crabs to be immersed in bowls of beaten egg. After an hour of soaking in egg, the crabs are dusted in flour and deep fried in boiling oil.

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Production area:Venetian Lagoon

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Fish, sea food and fish products

Nominated by:Luigi Boscolo