In order to deeply honor ourselves, our health and our family’s health, we need to know what types of foods to eat and how to prepare them. In Weston Price’s famous field studies, he discovered that healthy primitive people, from the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland to the South Sea Island area of Viti Levu in the Fijian Islands and in the island of Tutuila in American Samoa, all consumed various species of crab. Crab is also a highly prized food source in several other parts of the world.
Sacred Butter From The Sea
We have greatly under-appreciated the value of the crab as a food source. Dr. Price writes, “Recent studies on the vitamin content of crabs have shown that they are among the richest sources available.” However, as with other animal foods, native peoples did not eat crab the way we typically eat crab. Among traditional peoples, all the edible parts of the animal are consumed. Although Dr. Price does not specifically mention this as the case for crab, it must be that the internal viscera were eaten because this is where the fat-soluble vitamins are located.
On the inside, crabs have a hepatopancreas which is a part of the crab’s digestive system. The color of this organ is usually yellow, quite similar to the deep yellow color found in high-vitamin butter produced from cows grazing on rapidly growing grass. A common term for this yellow fatty organ is crab “butter” or “mustard.” Judging by its color, this part of the viscera would be rich in fat-soluble activators.
The native Swiss of the Loetschental Valley “recognize the presence of Divinity in the life-giving qualities of the butter made in June,” wrote Price, “. . . and, without knowing exactly why, pay it due homage.” In the same way, we can begin to honor the divine life-giving qualities in organs of the crab, especially the yellow crab butter.
Many indigenous groups understood the necessity for special foods prior to conception, during pregnancy and during lactation. And crab was one of these foods. Of the photograph reproduced on page 400 of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price described “a woman of one of the Fiji Islands who had gone several miles to the sea to get this particular type of lobster-crab which she believed, and which her tribal custom had demonstrated, was particularly efficient for producing a highly perfect infant.” This type of crab “lives in holes in the banks along the ocean shore. These are known by the primitive tribes to be very efficient both in preparing the mother for reproduction and also for enabling her to produce a very healthy and robust child and preserve herself from the overload of child bearing.”
The natives of Fiji also were aware that a particular species of spider crab fed to mothers during and prior to pregnancy would produce children “physically excellent and bright mentally.” Special foods of the sea were eaten “day to day” during the time of pregnancy. We have, then, a message from many wise traditions around the planet: eat crab during the period of preconception, pregnancy and lactation—and eat the whole crab!
Modern analyses reveal that crab is a good source of selenium, zinc, copper and vitamin B12. While I could not locate nutritional data for the organs, they must be very high in the fat-soluble activators, namely vitamins A, D and K. The fat-soluble activators are the types of nutrients that are so lacking in our modern diet of today and function as catalysts for nutrient absorption. So when you eat those delicious crab legs, your body will absorb far more nutrients from them if they are eaten with the crab butter and other viscera.
Locating and Preparing Crab
In order to write this article, I had to locate a crab and eat it, organs and all. Since I live in California, the species of crab commonly available is the Dungeness crab, which grows up to four pounds in size, and typically weigh about two pounds. While the varieties of local crab available to us in the US are not the same species of spider crab used for conceptual health in the Fijian Islands, I believe that many of them will have similar health-promoting properties. However, until a detailed nutrient analysis is carried out, we cannot know for sure. To obtain our crab, my wife and I timed our arrival at the fish merchant around the time when the fish shipment comes from the local warehouse. At the warehouse, the crabs are kept in a large holding tank—they have room to move around and look quite lively. At the fish retail store, the live crabs are kept in a small confinement tanks, they look unhappy and are obviously suffering to various degrees as they are crammed on top of each other.
Typically a crab is killed by boiling it alive; however, in an attempt to give the crab a rapid death, we had the fishmonger stab it through its lower belly just above the end of the small tail flap, which produces a near instant death. To prepare, we boiled the two-pound crab for 15 minutes. During the boiling, some of the internal goo can leak out of the hole. We carefully collected some of the goo and also reused this water for crab stock.
Whole crab can also be purchased previously cooked. Crab and lobster that are dead and not cooked are not sold because they rapidly go bad. Typically your fishmonger will “crack and clean” the crab, whether it is raw or cooked. This involves removing the skull and washing out the insides. When this is done, which is typical here in the West, the special food, the divine life-giving nutrients, go down the drain. Here we have one clear example of our modern nutritional errors: one of the most potent sources of fat-soluble vitamins and activators is thrown away daily, on a large scale. Think of how these special foods could benefit the poor and those who are undernourished.
To remove the skull, pull it off by grasping firmly at edge of the head near the rear. Inside you will see the yellow color of the digestive organ, as well as other organs, which are greenish gray. Anything that is soft and mushy is fair game for eating. The brain of the crab is supposedly the size of a pea. The organs will be in the skull as well as in the center of the body. This is what you want to eat, the exception being the gills which are fan-like objects on the outer perimeter of the body.
Our two-pound crab yielded about one-half cup of organ mush, and two cups of muscle meat. If the crab had been boiled, the “mush” would have been more solid. If you are eating crab that has been boiled and that you shell yourself, you should at least eat the congealed yellow crab butter that you find inside the shell.
Crab insides can be utilized in a variety of ways. We prepared a crab dip and mixed the insides into the dip. To do this we removed the insides with a spoon. If you are squeamish, you can just add the yellow crab butter to the dip. In Japanese cuisine, one dish with crab organs involves a blended mixture of the viscera, served in the skull of the crab with a raw egg on top. Another option is to scoop up the insides with a piece of sourdough bread. The greenish insides taste surprisingly sweet. And there was an air of excitement and positive energy I felt after eating this part of the crab, very similar to what happens when I eat a raw oyster.
Lobster And Crawfish
Lobster is similar to crab, namely, its fatsoluble activators will be found in the fatty organs. Weston Price described Maori school children who “gave very little evidence of having active dental caries. I asked the teacher what the children brought from their homes to eat at their midday lunch, since most of them had to come too great a distance to return at noon. I was told that they brought no lunch but that when school was dismissed at noon the children rushed for the beach where, while part of the group prepared bonfires, the others stripped and dived into the sea, and brought up a large species of lobster. The lobsters were promptly roasted on the coals and devoured with great relish.” The process of roasting on coals may have been a common way indigenous groups prepared crab as well.
Groups living off the islands of Australia, whose diet consisted of a liberal supply of shellfish, also ate “a variety of plant roots and greens, together with fruits.” I suggest these foods as a vital combination to be eaten with the crab to help provide balance.
Another source of life-giving butter from the sea is the crawfish and, in fact, crawfish “fat” is an important part of Cajun cuisine. It is removed from the head and cavity of the crawfish and added judiciously to etoufee (seafood stew) and bisque (seafood soup) for flavor. In New Orleans, crawfish fat can be bought in stores. Regular use of this fat contributes to the robust health and good looks of the traditional Cajun people.
New Light Of Hope
We have a new light of hope for providing ourselves and our children with optimal health. Crab, with its butter of the sea, provides women, prior to conception, during pregnancy and during lactation with vital nutrients to support growth. Crab, lobster or crawfish, eaten by growing children, when the internal viscera are included, will help provide a diet in harmony with nature’s laws, giving children the nutrients they need for optimal growth, immunity to tooth decay and freedom from degenerative disease. Hopefully our society will one day go from fearing the internal organs of animals like crab to revering them for their nutritional treasures.
Serves 8 as a dip
- 1 fresh crab, about 2 pounds
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably homemade
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Rapadura
- sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry (optional)
Prepare the crab as described in the article. You should end up with about 2 cups crab meat and about 1/2 cup of viscera.
Place cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, rapadura and viscera in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with seasalt and blend in optional white wine or sherry.
Transfer to a bowl and blend in the crab meat. Serve with toasted sourdough bread or properly prepared crackers.
Crab Cakes With Crab-Butter Mayonnaise
Makes 8 patties
- 2 cups crab meat
- 2/3 cup sourdough bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- sea salt to taste
- olive oil or lard for frying
- 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
- 1/4 cup crab butter or viscera
- 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and dried
- 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
- sea salt and pepper to taste
Mix crab meat with bread crumbs, eggs, mustard, cayenne pepper, parsley and sea salt to taste. Form into patties and fry in olive oil or lard.
Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise with crab butter, capers, onion and sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crab cakes.
Shellfish can collect environmental toxins in their organs in higher doses than in their muscle meat. Studies have shown that crabs, along with other types of mollusks, can have higher levels of PCBs and dioxins when they come from waters that are contaminated with these substances. Crabs are also susceptible to having higher amounts of toxins in their bodies as a result of “poison” from algae, such as domoic acid. People who have reactions to shellfish are probably very sensitive to these toxins.
Typically in the United States, shellfish are monitored for these toxins, and if any are found, then commercial harvesting is banned from the area. Shellfish are also to some degree monitored for their levels of PCBs and dioxins, and in known polluted areas they are not harvested. Shellfish do not have in general more “contaminants” than various types of oily fish, provided they come from clean water. The dumping of various chemicals into waterways is the cause of excess PCBs and dioxins in the water. These safeguards may not be in place for shellfish imported from other countries.
I put the words toxins and poison in quotation marks when referring to the algae, because I hold that there can be many unknown and missed factors in these claims. For example, one study I saw claimed that sea animals get sick from domoic acid, and yet when the sick animals were tested, about half of them had domoic acid in excess and the other half did not. Many of the guidelines to avoid shellfish are lumped together with guidelines to avoid mercury in fish. Recent evidence has confirmed that naturally occurring mercury in ocean fish is of no danger to humans. What is a hazard is mercury in seafoods from industrial waste pollution.
My personal conclusion is that if the crab or other shellfish is not from waters that are polluted with industrial waste, they are safe to eat. When any cases of the supposedly naturally occurring toxins are found here on the West Coast, I believe that careful evaluation is done to make sure no more shellfish are harvested from the toxic areas. Even though many shellfish are safe to eat, we still need to acknowledge the real threat that our modern society poses to the ocean ecosystem that helps sustains us.
Rami Nagel is a father who cares about the way we affect each other, our children and our planet through our lifestyle choices. His health background is in hands-on energy healing, Hatha and Bhaki yoga, and Pathwork. Rami is author of several health resources: www.healingourchildren.net, www.preconceptionhealth.org, www.curetoothdecay.com and www.yourreturn.org.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2007.