Scallops are filter-feeding bivalves. Unlike clams, oysters and mussels they can swim.

What we call a “scallop” is one part of the sea scallop animal, the adductor muscle. This muscle is more developed in the scallop than in oysters, mussels and clams because scallops are active swimmers, and use the muscle to open and close their shell, a motion which propels them through the water.

The primary sea scallop fishery, which is also one of the country’s most lucrative single-species commercial fisheries is in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Coast sea scallop fishery stretches from Pistolet Bay, Newfoundland, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Some sea scallops come from the Pacific Northwest. 

Scallop farming (aquaculture) is common in Japan, China and Peru; and is gaining momentum in the U.S (New England).

Sea scallops are available year round however the season for bay scallops is short and starts in late November off of Nantucket and Long Island-in time for Thanksgiving. The length of the season depends on the abundance of scallops. Brown tide and other environmental problems can have detrimental effects. I have wonderful memories of brisk fall days down at the Nantucket harbor–waiting at the dock for the local fishermen to arrive with the sweetest scallops, the size of a dime! Today, the majority of bay scallops are imported from China and Mexico.

Look for “dry” scallops that have not been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate (indicated by a milky white liquid in the container). Scallops are typically ivory or cream in color and may have an orange or gray tinge. Scallops labeled as “dayboat,” “dive,” or “diver” indicate harvest in state waters, and therefore should only be available fresh during the state scallop season, typically in the winter.

Scallops are low in fat and low in mercury.

Layne’s Simply Seared Sea Scallops, Serves 4

Seared Scallops

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • Freshly ground sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-pound sea scallops

Make sure the scallops are dry and bring to room temperature right before cooking. Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add scallops, and depending on size, cook for about 2 1/2 -3 minutes per side, until cooked through. Don’t overcook!

Serve with steamed Swiss chard, quinoa and mango chutney; or over pureed butternut squash or sweet potato.

Nutrition Facts Per serving: 130 calories, 4.4 g fat, 19 g protein, high in magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin B12.