Scallop is a common name that is primarily applied to any one of numerous species of saltwater clams or marine bivalve mollusks in the taxonomic family Pectinidae, the scallops.
The family name “Pectinidae”, comes from the Latin pecten meaning comb, in reference to a comb-like structure of the shell which is situated next to the byssal notch.
Scallops inhabit all the oceans of the world, with the largest number of species living in the Indo-Pacific region.
Most species live in relatively shallow waters from the low tide line to 100 meters (328 feet), while others prefer much deeper water.
Although some species only live in very narrow environments, most are opportunistic and can live under a wide variety of conditions. Scallops can be found living within, upon, or under either rocks, coral, rubble, sea grass, kelp, sand, or mud.
They are one of very few groups of bivalves to be primarily “free-living”, with many species capable of rapidly swimming short distances and even of migrating some distance across the ocean floor.
The lifespans of some scallops have been known to extend over 20 years.
The shell of a scallop has the classic fanned out shape so symbolic of maritime décor.
What most people recognize as a “scallop” is actually the creature’s adductor muscle, which it uses to open and close its shell in order to propel itself through the water.
Like all bivalves, scallops lack actual brains. Instead, they have a well-developed nervous system.
They also have up to one hundred simple eyes that see light and dark passing by. This alerts scallops to danger as well as assists scallops in grabbing food.
Scallops eat plankton – but the term “plankton” refers to a lot of different things. The Greek word “planktos” just refers to anything that drifts. Plankton means food that drifts through the water. That includes krill, microorganisms, algae, flagellae and larvae, including scallop larvae. The scallops use built-in siphons to pull water over mucus membranes that trap the plankton and then hair-like scilia transfer the trapped food into the scallop’s mouth.
When scallops sense the presence of a predator such as a starfish, they may attempt to escape by swimming swiftly but erratically through the water using jet propulsion created by repeatedly clapping their shells together.
The two varieties you will encounter most often are the bay scallop – about 10 cm (4 in) – and the Atlantic sea scallop – up to 23 cm (9 in) – both of which are somewhat irregular in shape. The bay scallop is the adductor muscle that hinges the two shells, which is why it is so small. The remaining part of the bay scallop is the coral (ovary or roe) and is inedible. A typical bay scallop is about 1.3 cm (half an inch) wide.
Scallops are highly prized as a food source in many countries around the world.
They are characterized by offering two flavors and textures in one shell: the meat, called “scallop”, which is firm and white, and the roe, called “coral”, which is soft and often brightly coloured reddish-orange.
Scallops are used in a variety of preparations, including sautéing, grilling, broiling, and poaching, and are also used in soups, stews, and salads.
In Japanese cuisine, scallops may be served as sashimi or sushi.
Like other shellfish, scallops are highly nutritious, low in calories and fat, and full of beneficial minerals and vitamins. A 3-ounce serving has just 94 calories and 1.2 grams of fat with a high level of protein at 19.5 grams. Scallops are also a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids – one serving has 333 milligrams. They are also high in zinc, copper, and vitamin B12, all of which assist in brain development, reducing the risk of mental decline and mood issues. Finally, they are an excellent source of selenium, which promotes proper thyroid function and a healthy immune system.
Scallops are in high demand. They taste great, they are healthy, and they can be prepared in a variety of ways. This makes them quite a bit more expensive as well. When products in high demand, but the supply is low, they will be quite a bit more expensive.
Sometimes, markets sell scallops already prepared in the shell, with only the meat remaining. Outside the US, the scallop is often sold whole. In the UK and Australia, they are available both with and without coral.
Scallops have lent their name to the culinary term “scalloped”, which originally referred to seafood creamed and served hot in the shell. Today, it means a creamed casserole dish such as scalloped potatoes, which contains no seafood at all.
The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of Saint James the Greater and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle’s shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys, and so forth, where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus, even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened.
Shell petroleum company has had a logo with a scallop shell on it since 1904.
The US state of New York has had the Atlantic bay scallop as its state shell since 1988.