The 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Lobster

— By Kayla Parsons, PhD Student, RDN, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Sydney Hauser, BS student, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

If you’re from New England, you’ve likely heard of Maine’s famous crustacean, the lobster. Despite its popularity, lobsters are complex and are riddled with unknown fun facts. Use the following five unique lobster tidbits at your next summer event.

1. Lobster is Maine’s number one food export.

Potatoes and blueberries are staples of Maine cuisine, but the state’s number one food export is actually lobster. Maine is the largest lobster-producing state in the United States, which is made possible by over 5,600 independent lobstermen. Contributing at least 1 billion dollars in revenue annually, lobster has proven to be a powerful force in Maine’s economy.

2. Looking for a nutrient-dense protein source? Choose lobster!

Lobster is a great source of protein, with 6 ounces containing about 28 grams. Lobster also contains various vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, and riboflavin. Several minerals are abundant in lobster, including selenium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc. Trying to be mindful of your fat intake? Cooked lobster has less total fat, cholesterol and calories as compared to other popular protein choices, such as lean beef, whole eggs, and roasted skinless chicken breast.

3. Tomalley is the gastrointestinal system for the lobster.

The green substance, or tomalley, located near the lobster’s head functions as a liver, pancreas and intestines. Although described as a delicacy in the culinary world, the Maine Lobster Promotion Council advises people to refrain from eating tomalley. Tomalley works as a filter, and therefore can accumulate pollutants from the environment, like dioxins and heavy metals.

4. Lobster shells contain a rainbow of colors (that we can’t exactly see).

Similar to skin, lobster shells have layers. Each layer contains different pigments. The red pigment, astaxanthin, that we typically associate with lobsters is stored underneath the hard outer shell. Layered above this are blue and orange pigmented layers, resulting in an overall murky brown colored lobster. Once the lobster is cooked, the blue and orange pigments are broken down, making the familiar red pigment glow.

5. New England lobster bakes were inspired by the Wabanaki Nations.

The Wabanaki Nations, composed of the Mi’kmaq nation, Maliseets, Passamaquoddy tribes, and Penobscot tribes, are attributed to cooking large seafood-based communal meals over fire-heated stones along the coast. This practice was adopted by New England settlers in the 1700’s, and became common practice for summer celebrations by the 1900s. Traditional lobster bakes steam lobster outside with seaweed, clams, spices and vegetables.