There are around 4,500 different kinds of crab around the world, but brown crab is the most commonly available in Britain. Caught off the south coast of Devon, they can weigh up to 3kg.
CROMER CRABS From Norfolk, these crabs have a delectable sweet flesh, and are prized by food lovers. Scottish ones, perhaps the most sought after, score top marks for their flavour, which owes much to them feeding in cold, unpolluted waters.
BLUE CRABS Although recently introduced to the Mediterranean, it is actually native to the Eastern side of North America, especially around the coast of Maryland.
SOFT SHELL CRABS This is the blue crab in its moulted state - a much sought after delicacy. Blue crab sheds and re-grows its shell in just over 24-hours.
SPIDER CRABS A northern European species, particularly popular in France.
SNOW CRABS These crabs inhabit the deep cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It's usually canned and processed rather than sold fresh.
IN THE KITCHEN
Although most supermarkets sell crabs ready-cooked, it's worth sourcing a decent fishmonger that stocks live crabs. That way, you'll be sure of a superior flavour. Follow RSPCA guidelines for cooking crabs.
The flesh of the male (cock) crab has a superior flavour than the female. Check out the gender by looking at the flap or tail, located under the carapace. The male has a thinner and more pointed flap.
Getting at its flesh is a messy affair - great fun though. Use lobster crackers or a small hammer to crack the claws, and a skewer to take out meat from the claws, nooks and crannies. Its sweet brown flesh lies in the shell, and the firm white meat in the legs and claws.
In Britain, fresh crabmeat is traditionally served with mayonnaise, or is 'dressed' by arranging the creamy brown flesh and flaky white meat separately in its cleaned shell.
Mediterranean crab stews, rich with garlic and herbs, are especially popular in Spain. In south India, crab curries, flavoured with creamy coconut milk and crackling curry leaves are famed.
Soft-shell crabs are usually served fried or grilled, and sauced simply with melted butter and accompanied with lemon wedges.