I’m assuming you are already familiar with the typical kinds of seafood like crab, oyster, and shrimp but scallops, not so much. Let us decipher some things about this delicacy.
A scallop is a type of shellfish in the same family as clams, mussels, and oysters. The surface of the shell is scalloped, giving the fish its name. It is a mollusk that has two shells, and a muscle inside called the adductor muscle, which connects the two shells. It is this muscle that helps the scallop to propel itself in water by forcing water through the shells.
Scallops live in environments with different colors of surrounding algae, plankton, and the likes. This may, in turn, inform the color of the scallop. It is therefore not uncommon to get scallops with hints of green, orange, pink or blue or in some cases, multicolored scallops.
Scallops are almost everywhere in the sea, and if you may have seen shells on the shore at some point in your life, the odds are very high that the shells you saw belonged to scallops.
Let us discuss some different types of scallops.
Types of scallops
The Atlantic and the Mediterranean are great to harvest locations for three of the most common scallops: the bay scallop, sea scallop, and the calico scallop.
Around the world, we also have some great harvesting spots for other types of wild and farm scallops such as Weathervane Scallop, Japanese Scallop, Pink Scallop, Spiny Scallop, Queen Scallop, and Icelandic Scallop. Japan, China, and Europe are the best examples of places rich in these diverse types.
Sea scallops are by far the most popular of kinds. They are abundant all year round. They measure 2 inches in diameter. Bay scallops are plentiful in October to March. In terms of sweetness, they outdo the sea scallops and are even smaller in size. They are also more presentable.
Calico scallops are in abundance in December through to May. They are more common in the Southern Atlantic and US Gulf coast. The difference between the former two and this type is that the shells of the calico are neatly pursed together. Also, it offers a milder taste, unlike the sea and bay scallops.
What do scallops taste like?
Of course, a genuine concern for anyone who has never tried scallops would be its taste. The muscle is the edible part of the scallop. It is soft, slimy and fleshy in texture. In terms of flavor, it is mildly sweet, making it an enjoyable delicacy even for those who are not fans of fish.
Scallops have an almond or hazelnut punch to them, clearly explaining their sweetness. The good thing with scallops is that it doesn’t have an overbearing fishy taste like most fish do. Just think of marshmallows, only now that we have it in the form of a fish.
Buying fresh scallops
You may find the hustle of buying scallops unpleasant and confusing if you are not an experienced indulger. The freshness of scallop translates to the general goodness of the prepared scallop.
When scallops are caught, they open their shells, exposing them to air and bacteria, which makes them a very perishable product. Therefore, immediately when they are caught, scallops are refrigerated.
It is not uncommon to find some fishermen immersing the scallops in a sodium tripolyphosphate solution before putting them in the freezer. They do this to make the scallop look larger, fresher and healthier by the time it reaches the market. It may not be a harmful practice, but it sure does compromise the quality of the scallop.
Therefore, buying a dry pack as opposed to a wet one will almost assure you of a better quality scallop.
For a much fresher lot, shopping for scallop at shore markets is a better idea. Fishers may bring scallop to the shore almost immediately after their catching session, giving you a guarantee of the quality and freshness of your purchase. They may tend to be a bit costlier when bought in this manner.
Scallop that is still in a lump usually indicates freshness. It merely means that the adductor has held its shape from harvesting. Also, the smell of seawater on the scallop is an indicator that the scallop is still fresh.
There is also an option of buying scallops that have been extracted from their shells. In this case, go for the shiny cream-white looking scallops. Avoid the ones that are bright white in appearance. Orange or pink hues on the scallop are a marker of high nutritive value.
Some unscrupulous vendors and markets can seriously rip you off if you have no clue about what exactly you are looking for. It is not uncommon to find vendors selling shark meat to pass as scallop to unsuspecting shoppers.
First off, scallops cannot all be the same in shape. Scallops that are being sold and they look like they have a neat and identical round shape should be treated with suspicion.
The texture of a true scallop would be defined by the fibers across the surface, given that they are animal muscle like any other. Scallops that seem solid and dense are therefore fake.
It should also be noted that there are imitation scallops created from a blend of fish paste. These are perfectly okay and are often clearly marked as imitations so be careful on what exactly you are looking to purchase. Imitations are becoming common and more acceptable by the day.
Scallops can be cooked using different methods. For low-calorie diets, grilling, broiling, baking, searing, poaching, steaming or sautéing methods would be appropriate. However you decide to prepare your scallops, it is important to note that they can easily overcook and therefore cooking scallops should never be left unattended. Overcooked scallops tend to be chewy and rubbery, just as with any other animal protein because of coagulation.
Before cooking, remove the muscles from the shells and thoroughly wash in water. If you bought the ones that are already detached, wash them in water as well. Place them aside to dry thoroughly before you start cooking.
It should be noted that some people like their scallop raw.
Scallops can be served alongside some great side dishes, sauces and in some other instances, other meats. Some incredible serving suggestions for scallops include different types of seafood like shrimp, bacon, tomatoes, grain dishes such as pasta and rice, potatoes and savory or sweet sauces.
Nutritional value and Health benefits
Scallops are low-fat proteins, reducing the number of calorie intake and cholesterol levels of an individual. This makes scallops suitable for someone who may be looking into losing weight. They avail the body with the necessary amino acids required for building muscle, healthy tissues and body fluids.
Scallops are a minefield of vitamins and minerals. They contain essentials such as vitamin B12, selenium, choline, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, copper, calcium, and iodine.
Scallops are rich vitamin B12, which is needed by the body to perform the following vital functions: formation of red blood cells, neurological activities, synthesis of DNA, and metabolism of fats and proteins. Vitamin B12 is therefore responsible for the prevention of anemia, depression, memory issues such as Alzheimer’s and fatigue.
Selenium and zinc are the most in abundance in the scallops. Selenium is known to be an antioxidant and promotes a healthy thyroid. Zinc is a catalyst in various enzyme activities in the body. It also helps to with immunity, healing of wounds, cell division, and protein synthesis.
Magnesium and potassium keep the heart in a healthy state by reducing blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Another critical benefit of scallops is its omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids on their own, and therefore we need a supplementary source. Omega 3 is essential because it keeps the brain at an optimum functioning state. It also takes care of the growth and development of the brain, lowers risk margins of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Who should eat scallops and who should not?
Scallops are a nutritious bunch, rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Generally, an adult who is healthy, free from fish-related allergies as well as excessive heavy metal intake, can comfortably eat scallops any day. On the other hand, scallops can be recommended for those people who are on a weight-loss journey because they are low-calorie foods. Patients with Alzheimer’s and mood disorders such as depression can also take scallops to prevent the occurrence of their episodes. They are good for the brain and the nervous system.
The shell fish is also good for persons who are at risk of heart conditions like arrhythmia, coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation. Magnesium, potassium, copper and omega 3 fatty acids are great for heart health and easing arthritis.
Those that suffer from high blood pressure can also benefit from the scallops as they help in lowering it to acceptable levels. The copper content in the fish is beneficial to diabetes patients.
However, scallops may be unsuitable for the following groups of people, and therefore they should proceed with caution.
The first category of people who should be careful is those with a history of fish and shellfish allergies, which are one of the most common types of allergies. The allergies occur as a result of the body’s reaction of a protein named tropomyosin.
Symptoms of a flare-up may include diarrhea, vomiting, tight throat, hives, short breath and coughing, swollen tongue and lips, blue or pale skin, dizziness, and confusion or in worse cases, anaphylactic shock.
The second group of people who should be cautious with scallops is pregnant women. Given that scallops are reared in different locations, the quantity of heavy metals in them may not be precise. If the fish had been exposed to high levels of those metals, it could have a detrimental effect on the pregnant woman because cooking only gets rid of bacteria and not the toxins. It is usually advisable to steer off shellfish during pregnancy.
Children, the elderly as well as those who eat lots of fish should also slow up on their scallop intake.
In conclusion, scallops are a delicacy in different parts of the world. From their nutritional value to their flexibility that allows for a versatile number of cooking methods, scallops are simply irresistible. Try them today!