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Crab Cracking on Edisto Island

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Crab Cracking on Edisto Island
Photo by Allston McCrady

There are plenty of decadent delights in coastal South Carolina on the way to Edisto Island. You can pick up fresh coffee and cornmeal donuts at Geechee Boy Market & Mill, where you might just catch Greg Johnsman himself giving a demo on one of his antique grist mills. At George & Pink’s vegetable stand, you can pick up fresh corn, tomatoes, and boiled peanuts. Pig out on fried chicken at Po’ Pigs Bo-B-Q and chat up proprietor Robert “Bobo” Lee himself, a gentle giant who happens to be the half-brother of South Carolina’s famous artist Jasper Johns.

But today I’m on a mission for crab. And there’s one place to get it: Flowers Seafood Company.

I stop at the little blue shack right off Highway 174 with a colorful giant crab painted on its side. Vincent Flowers himself mans the counter. His family has been hauling in fresh seafood for sixty years here.

Things have changed. In one generation, Flowers has seen the number of local shrimp boats dwindle from 23 down to two. But he’s not leaving. In his mellifluous old Edisto accent, he bemoans, “That foreign stuff done put a hurtin’ on us.” His son, Vincent Flowers Jr., walks in from checking crab traps. Today’s yield is low: from 140 crab pots, only 2-1/2 bushels. Still, it’s enough to please the locals and daytrippers like me who are here to crack claws.

Flowers directs me out back to a mobile kitchen trailer flanked by picnic tables. Marvin Gaye’s sultry voice croons over the airwaves. A handwritten specials board announces “Garlic Crab, $30/dozen.” I go for the whole fried crab, cracking the claws with my bare teeth to reveal the juicy meat within, and saving the back fin for last—the sweetest spot. It’s a messy, gluttonous feast beneath the towering pines, magnolias, and live oaks that shape the coastal Lowcountry landscape.

Casual, no fuss roadside stands like this are part of Edisto’s allure. The next time I get a hankering for crab, I know where I’m headed.