March 12th is a food holiday celebrating a popular delicacy, the scallop. It’s National Baked Scallops Day.
Scallops are a cosmopolitan family and can be found in all of the world’s oceans. They are one of the most popular shellfish in the world and highly prized as a food source.
- There are two fleshy parts of the scallop that are usually sold at market for human consumption. The adductor muscle is the white medallion of meat which is rich and sweet. This is the piece that is most familiar as the “scallop” we see on a menu.
- Baking them omits much of the butter and fat that otherwise go into cooking this lean, white seafood.
- Although they may not look like it, scallops are animals. They are in the Phylum Mollusca, a group of animals that also includes snails, sea slugs, octopi, squid, clams, mussels and oysters.
- Scallops are in the group of mollusks called the bivalves. These animals have two hinged shells that are formed of calcium carbonate.
- Scallops have about 60 eyes that line its mantle. These eyes may be a brilliant blue color, and allow the scallop to detect light, dark and motion.
- Atlantic sea scallops can have very large shells – up to 9″ in length. Bay scallops are smaller, growing to about 4 inches.
- Unlike the mussel and the oyster, the scallop cannot close and seal its shell completely and so can only survive in the deeper, full salinity sea water. Their intolerance of fresh water means that they are not found in intertidal waters except at exceptionally low spring tides.
- Unlike other bivalves such as mussels and clams, most scallops are free-swimming. They swim by clapping their shells quickly using their highly developed adductor muscle, forcing a jet of water past the shell hinge, propelling the scallop forward. They’re surprisingly speedy.
- In 1280 Marco Polo recorded that scallops were sold in the market in Hangchow, China.
- Each ring on a scallop’s shell represents a year of growth, although a ring might also record a stressful incident in the scallop’s life.
- Dating back to 400BC, scallops have played a prominent part in man’s religious, artistic and architectural development.
- The shell features in numerous works of art, the most famous example being Botticelli’s masterpiece The Birth of Venus. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite (the Greek equivalent to the Roman goddess Venus) was born and arose from the sea foam that resulted from Cronus (the new order of gods) flinging the severed genitals of Uranus (the old order of gods) into the ocean. A giant scallop shell then carried her to the island of Cyprus where her reign began.
- In early Christian times, the scallop shell was often incorporated into baptismal fonts as a symbol of rebirth.
- The French for the King Scallop is coquille St Jacques (shell of St James). This is also the name given to a famous recipe for scallops served on a shell in a creamy wine sauce.
- There are more than 400 species of scallops found around the world.
- Scallops are one of the cleanest shellfish available. The abductor muscle is not used to filter water, so scallops are not susceptible to toxins or contaminants they way that clams and mussels are.
- Three of the top United Stated sea scallop ports include New Bedford, MA; Cape May, NJ; and Norfolk, VA.
- Just one bay scallop can produce up to 2 million eggs.
- The bay scallop is the official state shell of New York.