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For scientific information on this family, see Pectinidae. For verb senses, see Scalloping. For potato scallops, see Potato cake. For the cut of meat, see Escalope.
A live opened scallop, the pale orange circular part is the adductor muscle, most commonly eaten, and the darker orange curved part is the "coral", the ovary or roe.

Scallop (/ˈskɒləp/ or /ˈskæləp/) 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 common name "scallop" is also sometimes applied to species in other closely related families within the superfamily Pectinoidea. Many species of scallops in the family Pectinidae are highly prized as a food source, and some are farmed as aquaculture.

The word "scallop" is also applied simply to the meat of these bivalves when it is sold as seafood. In addition the name "scallop" is used as part of the name of dishes based on the meat of scallops, and is even applied to some dishes not containing the meat of these bivalves, dishes that are prepared in a similar fashion.

The brightly colored, symmetrical, fan-shaped shells of scallops, with their radiating, often fluted sculpture, are valued by shell collectors, and have been used since ancient times as motifs in art, architecture and design.

Seafood industry[edit]

Wild fisheries[edit]

By far the largest wild scallop fishery is for the Atlantic sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) found off northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Most of the rest of the world's production of scallops is from Japan (wild, enhanced, and aquaculture), and China (mostly cultured Atlantic bay scallops).

Scallops are most commonly harvested using scallop dredges or bottom trawls. Recently, scallops harvested by divers, hand-caught on the ocean floor, have entered the marketplace.[1] In contrast to scallops captured by a dredge across the sea floor, diver scallops tend to be less gritty. They are also more ecologically friendly, as the harvesting method does not cause damage to undersea flora or fauna. In addition, dredge-harvesting methods often result in delays of up to two weeks before the scallops arrive at market,[citation needed] which can cause the flesh to break down, and results in a much shorter shelf life.


Main article: Scallop aquaculture

In 2005, China accounted for 80% of the global scallop and pecten catch, according to an FAO study.[2] Outside of China, Russia remained the industry leader.


New Zealand[edit]

The Tasman Bay area was closed to commercial scallop harvesting from 2009 to 2011 due to a decline in the numbers. In 2011, industry-funded research was conducted into scallop-harvesting patterns. Forest and Bird list scallops as "Worst Choice" in their Best Fish Guide for sustainable seafood species.[3]

United States[edit]

On the east coast of the United States, over the last 100 years, the populations of bay scallops have greatly diminished due to several factors, but probably is mostly due to reduction in sea grasses (to which bay scallop spat attach) caused by increased coastal development and concomitant nutrient runoff. Another possible factor is reduction of sharks from overfishing. A variety of sharks used to feed on rays, which are a main predator of bay scallops. With the shark population reduced — in some places almost eliminated — the rays have been free to feed on scallops to the point of greatly decreasing their numbers. By contrast, the Atlantic sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) is at historically high levels of abundance after recovery from overfishing.

As food[edit]

Scallops with wine sauce

Scallops are characterized by having two types of meat in one shell: the adductor muscle, called "scallop", which is white and meaty, and the roe, called "coral", which is red or white and soft. Sometimes, markets sell scallops already prepared in the shell, with only the adductor muscle intact. Outside the U.S., the scallop is often sold whole. In Galician cuisine, scallops are baked with bread crumbs, ham, and onions. In the UK and Australia, they are available both with and without the roe. The roe is also usually eaten.[4] Scallops without any additives are called "dry packed", while scallops that are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) are called "wet packed". STPP causes the scallops to absorb moisture prior to the freezing process, thereby increasing the weight. The freezing process takes about two days.

In Japanese cuisine, scallops may be served in soup or prepared as sashimi or sushi. Dried scallop is known in Cantonese Chinese cuisine as conpoy (乾瑤柱, 乾貝, 干貝). In a sushi bar, hotategai (帆立貝, 海扇) is the traditional scallop on rice, and while kaibashira (貝柱) may be called scallops, it is actually the adductor muscle of any kind of shellfish, e.g. mussels, oysters, or clams.

Scallops have lent their name to the culinary term 'scalloped', which originally referred to seafood creamed and served hot in the shell.[5] Today, it means a creamed casserole dish such as scalloped potatoes, which contains no seafood at all. Smoked scallops are sometimes served as appetizers or as an ingredient in the preparation of various dishes and appetizers.[6]

Symbolism of the shell[edit]

Portrait by Carlo Crivelli, c. 1480

Shell of Saint James[edit]

The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of James, son of Zebedee, and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (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 etc., 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.

The association of Saint James with the scallop can most likely be traced to the legend that the apostle once rescued a knight covered in scallops. An alternative version of the legend holds that while St. James' remains were being transported to Galicia (Spain) from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water, and emerged covered in the shells.[citation needed] Indeed, in French the animal (as well as a popular preparation of it in cream sauce) is called coquille St. Jacques. In German, they are Jakobsmuscheln — literally "James mussels". Curiously the Linnaeus name Pecten jacobeus refers to the Mediterranean scallop, while the scallop endemic to Galicia is called Pecten maximus due to its bigger size. Moreover, though the shell is sometimes referred to as "Saint James' cockle", it is not a cockle at all.

The scallop shell is represented in the decoration of churches named after St. James, such as in St James' Church, Sydney, where it appears in a number of places, including in the mosaics on the floor of the chancel.

When referring to St James, a scallop shell valve is displayed with its convex or outer surface showing. In contrast, when a scallop valve refers to the goddess Venus (see below) the scallop valve is displayed with its concave interior surface showing.

Fertility symbol[edit]

Aphrodite in a sea shell, from Amisos, now in the Louvre.

Throughout antiquity, scallops and other hinged shells have symbolized the feminine principle.[7] Outwardly, the shell can symbolize the protective and nurturing principle, and inwardly, the "life-force slumbering within the Earth",[8] an emblem of the vulva.[9][10]

Many paintings of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility, included a scallop shell in the painting to identify her. This is evident in Botticelli's classically inspired The Birth of Venus (jocularly nicknamed 'Venus on the half-shell'[11]).

One legend of the Way of St. James holds that the route was seen as a sort of fertility pilgrimage, undertaken when a young couple desired to bear offspring. The scallop shell is believed to have originally been carried, therefore, by pagans as a symbol of fertility.[12][13]

Alternatively, the scallop resembles the setting sun, which was the focus of the pre-Christian Celtic rituals of the area. To wit, the pre-Christian roots of the Way of St. James was a Celtic death journey westwards towards the setting sun, terminating at the End of the World (Finisterra) on the "Coast of Death" (Costa da Morte) and the "Sea of Darkness" (i.e., the Abyss of Death, the Mare Tenebrosum, Latin for the Atlantic Ocean, itself named after the Dying Civilization of Atlantis).[14] The reference to St. James rescuing a "knight covered in scallops" is therefore a reference to St. James healing, or resurrecting, a dying (setting sun) knight. Similarly, the notion of the "Sea of Darkness" (Atlantic Ocean) disgorging St. James' body, so that his relics are (allegedly) buried at Santiago de Compostella on the coast, is itself a metaphor for "rising up out of Death", that is, resurrection.[15]


A scallop shell as a heraldic device on a German coat of arms

The scallop shell symbol found its way into heraldry as a badge of those who had been on the pilgrimage to Compostela, although later it became a symbol of pilgrimage in general. Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales' family, the Spencer family coat of arms includes a scallop, as well as both of Diana's sons Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry's personal coats of arms; also Pope Benedict XVI's personal coat of arms includes a scallop; another example is the surname Wilmot and also John Wesley's (which as a result the scallop shell is used as an emblem of Methodism). However, charges in heraldry do not always have an unvarying symbolic meaning, and there are cases of arms in which no family member went on a pilgrimage and the occurrence of the scallop is simply a pun on the name of the armiger (as in the case of Jacques Coeur), or for other reasons.

State shell of New York[edit]

In 1988, the State of New York in the US choose the bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) as its state shell.[16]


In design, 'scalloped edges' or 'scalloped ridges' refers to a wavy pattern reminiscent of the edge or surface of a typical scallop shell.


The Royal Dutch Shell emblem, which was since 1904 based on the shell of Pecten maximus, became progressively more stylised during the 20th century.

Since 1904, the energy corporation Royal Dutch Shell has derived its highly recognizable logo from the scallop species Pecten maximus in a series of increasingly stylised representations.

Britten Memorial[edit]

Large sculpture of a scallop on the beach at Aldeburgh, England

On the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England, is Maggi Hambling's metal sculpture, The Scallop, erected in 2003 as a memorial to the composer Benjamin Britten, who had a long association with the town.


  1. ^ Walker, Margaret (1991). "What price Tasmanian scallops? A report of morbidity and mortality associated with the scallop diving season in Tasmania 1990.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 21 (1). Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  2. ^ China catches 1 m tonnes of scallops and pectens in 2005
  3. ^ Scallops | Forest and Bird
  4. ^
  5. ^ (Rombauer 1964).
  6. ^ AndyTalk: Beyond Lox - Smoked Seafood Hold the Bagels | Phoenix New Times
  7. ^ Salisbury JE (2001) Women in the ancient world, p. 11. ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-1-57607-092-5.
  8. ^ Fontana D (1994) The secret language of symbols: a visual key to symbols and their meanings, pp. 88, 103. Chronicle Books, ISBN 978-0-8118-0462-2.
  9. ^ Gutzwiller K (1992) "The Nautilus, the Halycon, and Selenaia: Callimachus's Epigram 5 Pf.= 14 G.-P.", Classical Antiquity, 11(2): 175-193.
  10. ^ Johnson B (1994) Lady of the beasts: the Goddess and her sacred animals, p. 230. Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, ISBN 978-0-89281-523-4.
  11. ^ Porter D and Prince D (2009) Frommer's Italy 2010, p. 273. Frommer's, ISBN 978-0-470-47069-5.
  12. ^ Slavin S (2003) "Walking as Spiritual Practice: The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela" Body and Society 9(1):18. doi 10.1177/1357034X030093001
  13. ^ Gauding M (2009) The Signs and Symbols Bible: The Definitive Guide to Mysterious Markings, Page 169. Sterling Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-4027-7004-3
  14. ^ Thomas, Isabella. "Pilgrim's Progress". Europe in the UK. European Commission.
  15. ^ Pinkham MA (2004) Guardians Of The Holy Grail: The Knights Templar, John The Baptist, And The Water Of Life Page 235. Adventures Unlimited Press. ISBN 978-1-931882-28-6
  16. ^ "New York State Shell: Bay Scallop". State Symbols USA. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 

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