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Red or Orange?

Red or orange? That was the question when my wife, Nancy, and I headed off to the coast in November for our second crabbing trip of the month. On our first trip, early in the month, we loaded up on orange dungeness crabs, but we also caught a couple of red rock crabs that were so chunky we had to keep them.

We normally don’t keep red crabs, which are the red-headed stepchild of the Oregon crab family. An invasive species from the Asian Pacific, red rocks are smaller and meaner than dungeness with harder shells and bigger claws.

But guess what, and I can say this with unscientific near-certainty, they taste better than dungeness. At least that was the opinion of my wife and in-laws (I couldn’t taste a difference) when we ate them side by side, which got us to wondering: Do other crabbers prefer red or orange?

Our second crabbing trip, to Bandon and Charleston, was designed to answer that question. We talked to dock crabbers for two days, always asking whether they noticed a difference in taste, and if so, which they preferred.

Most crabbers rated them equally, saying they couldn’t taste a difference. But of the crabbers with a palate sophisticated enough to discern a difference, 12 out of 15 said they preferred red rocks. Go figure.

As we pondered our findings on the drive home from the coast, we decided to answer another question that has bugged us: White or golden? Some mushroom hunters swear white chanterelle mushrooms taste better than golden chanterelles. Since we were driving past coastal forests, which are loaded with chanterelles in November, we pulled off the road and ducked into the duff. It didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to find chanterelles, both white and golden.

That night we ate from the rainbow: red crab, orange crab, white chanterelle, golden chanterelle, with mixed baby greens and peas from our fall garden. It was enough to make us fall in love with the Oregon Outdoors.

As for Taste Test No. 2: the findings were unanimous. Nancy and I both preferred the golden chanterelles over the white, by about the same slight margin that we preferred red crab over orange.

What tough choices we face here in Oregon.

It may be sacriligeous to say so, but a lot of people think red rock crabs taste better than the mighty Dungeness. - Courtesy of Nancy McClain