Almost as good as Phoenix Garden.

Whether they’re tossed with Old Bay and served in a sandwich, fried at Great NY Noodle Town, or sauteed as a base for pasta, soft shell crabs always come out delicious. Unfortunately, this delicacy is only available a few times a year. But hopefully not for long.

Scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found a way to induce molting in blue crabs, leading to the possibility of soft shell crabs all year long. Naturally, the crabs only shed their hard shell, and thus become “soft shelled”, between May and July.

The researchers discovered a hormone receptor that regulates the molting cycle. During most of the year, the crabs release a hormone that activates the receptor, keeping the shell on. In the Spring, when the crabs need to grow, the hormone stops, and the crabs shed their skin. By creating a chemical to inhibit the receptor, the scientists could induce molting on demand.

More than just good for seafood lovers, this discovery could also drastically change the schedule of yearly crab fishing, thus eliminating overfishing during a time of year when the crabs are particularly vulnerable. Alleviating environmental pressure AND producing more delicious crab? Time to stock up on Old Bay.

[via National Geographic]