Scallops are edible bivalves similar to oysters and clams. They are found both in bay waters and in the sea. In terms of texture they are somewhat similar to white fish and have a fairly sweet flavor that is ideal for many different dishes. Some people may be allergic to scallops, however, so anyone with previous allergies to mollusks or shellfish may want to avoid eating them.
Flavor and Use
All of the scallop muscle is edible, and European eaters often enjoy them in their entirety like oysters. In the US, however, only the shell muscle is eaten and many Americans view these white cylinders of flesh simply as "scallops." The flavor is sweet and delicate, and is best served with a mild sauce of cream, cheese, or butter that does not overpower the subtle flavor of the scallop itself. They are used in many recipes similar to shrimp or clams in foods such as pasta dishes and appetizers.
Scallops are very low in fat and fairly low in calories; a single scallop typically has only about 30 to 35 calories. They are a source of unsaturated fat with omega-3 fatty acids, which are recommended for a healthy diet and provide a decent source of vitamin B12 and calcium. A single serving also includes a good amount of magnesium, iron, and zinc, which can be good for some people but may be a problem for individuals with certain illnesses or on some types of medication. Anyone with major dietary or health concerns should consult a healthcare professional with questions about seafood.
As a mollusk, scallops can cause allergic reactions in some people. Anyone with an allergy to clams, oysters, or similar foods should avoid them or try only a very small piece. An allergy to shellfish, such as lobsters or shrimp, does not necessarily indicate a mollusk allergy, though caution should be used by anyone with seafood allergies when trying something new. Replacements, such as white fish, can be used for many dishes, but can bother eaters with fish allergies.
Finding and Harvesting
Scallops are both fished and "farmed" or cultivated in water for harvest. They do not attach themselves to a permanent anchorage, but move themselves through the water by opening and closing their shells. As a result, the muscle that controls the "hinge" of the shell is much larger than that of oysters or clams. Since they cannot survive out of water, they are shucked from their shells on board fishing boats.
The bay scallop is much smaller than the sea scallop, and the edible muscle is usually about one half-inch (about a centimeter) or smaller in diameter. A sea scallop's muscle can be as large as two inches (about 5 centimeters) in diameter. Sea scallops are sometimes cut into smaller shapes to pass as bay varieties and some companies produce "faux" versions made from shark or sting ray.