There are a number of myths and tall tales concerning Maine lobster. Are you a lobster expert? Test your crustacean knowledge. You may be surprised what you find out about Maine’s own food group.
MYTH #1: Summer Lobster is the best
FACT: Summertime is lobster time in New England. The majority of lobsters caught in the summer are soft-shell. For the tourist a soft-shell lobster will usually be a good buy and a snap to open. This is due to the fact that a soft-shell lobster has less meat because it has not filled out its shell yet. Squeeze the sides of the lobster’s body; the soft shell will yield to pressure, while the hard shell will be firm, and tightly packed with meat. Some locals believe the meat of the soft-shell lobster is sweeter, but compared to a hard-shell lobster of the same size, the meat is wimpy and watery!
MYTH #2: The big lobsters have tough meat.
FACT: The size of the lobster–small or large–does not determine the quality. The larger the lobster or the older the lobster does not necessarily mean tougher meat. Tough or rubbery meat is usually the result of a lobster cooked too long.
FACT: Actually sex doesn’t really matter, unless you’re a fan of roe. The red “stuff” is the lobster roe or coral. It is the female lobster’s unfertilized eggs. Females have a slightly wider tail, than the mail lobster. And adult males have bigger claws. The amount of meat of a male lobster versus female lobster is negligible. In short, there is no taste difference.
MYTH #4: Lobster scream when you cook them.
FACT: Lobsters have no vocal chords. The sound you may hear is actually steam escaping from the shell as the lobster cooks. Lobsters have a ganglionic nervous system (as opposed to our central nervous system) and do not feel pain like we do. To kill a lobster humanely, we believe boiling or steaming is the quickest method.
MYTH #5: Lobsters are Red.
FACT: “Red as a lobster” is just a tale. Lobsters come in just about every color but red. They can be blue, light yellow, greenish-brown, gray, dusty orange, some calico, and some with spots. However, they all turn red when they hit hot water. The hot water cuts the link between astaxanthin, a red substance contained in the lobster’s shell, and protein, which in cold water brings out the predominant coloring.
Myth #6: There is only one kind of lobster found in the USA.
FACT: Actually there are two kinds of lobster crustaceans found in U.S: the Maine or American lobster and the spiny or rock lobster. The true lobster has claws on the first four legs, lacking in the spiny lobster; the spiny lobster has a pair of horns above the eyes, lacking in the Maine lobster. The spiny lobster is found in warm waters off Florida and southern California, while the American lobster lives in the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland south to New Jersey. Nine states on the East Coast haul in the American lobster. Eighty percent of the total came from Maine in 2004, according to the U.S Commerce Department.
MYTH #7: Maine catches the most lobsters in North America.
FACT: False, Canada accounts for more than 60% of lobsters landings in North American. In fact, Canada catches twice the lobsters of Maine. Maine lands approximately 60% of the U.S. catch, followed by Massachusetts at 18%. Surprisingly, as much as 70% of lobsters landed in Maine are shipped back up to Canadian processors and are then shipped back to the U.S. as Canadian product.
MYTH #8 : Only buy lobsters in months with an “r” in them.
FACT: Folklore says that lobster and other shellfish should be eaten only in months with “r’s” in them — September, October, etc. Actually lobster can be eaten 12 months a year. The notion that live lobster should not be eaten in “r”-less months, that is, months that occur during warm weather — may have started in the days when shellfish where shipped without adequate refrigeration and could spoil.
MYTH #9: Lobster is high in fat.
FACT: Maine lobster is a low fat, low cholesterol dish. Maine Lobster has less calories (98), cholesterol (72mg) and saturated fats (0.1g) than turkey and chicken. (Of course, that doesn’t include your butter). Lobster meat contains omega-3 fatty acids, thought to reduce hardening of the arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease.
MYTH #10: Lobsters are scavengers.
FACT: Contrary to what most people think, lobsters aren’t simply scavengers. Lobsters usually move around and hunt for food at night. Researchers have discovered that lobsters hunt down live prey as well (except for bait), which includes fish, snails, crabs, clams, mussels, sea urchins, and sometimes other lobsters! That’s why lobstermen immobilize the claws with bands. Inshore lobsters tend to stay in one place, seldom moving more than a mile or so, but deep water lobsters farther out on the Continental Shelf follow a seasonal migratory pattern shoreward in summer, returning to the Shelf again in the autumn.