Scallops can be traced back 300 million years in fossil form and there are more than 300 living species in the world today. The two commercial varieties farmed in Scotland are the King Scallop (Pecten maximus) and the smaller Queen Scallop (Aequipecten opercularis). Both thrive around the West Coast in the sheltered waters of its sandy-bottomed sea lochs and many islands.
Scallops are cultivated from wild caught spat, which is collected in mesh bags suspended in the sea. As their natural predators follow the same life cycle, the settled spat have first to be sorted before being placed in “lantern” baskets where they grow naturally for about 1 ½ to 2 years. The Queen Scallops are then harvested whilst the King Scallops are placed out on the seabed to grow for another 2-3 years before being retrieved by divers.
Like the mussel and the oyster, the scallop is a filter feeder and is reliant on the surrounding waters for its well-being. However, unlike the mussel and the oyster, the scallop is the only bivalve that can swim. It does this by rapidly opening and closing its shell thus producing a jet of water that propels it away from predators such as starfish and crabs.
After spawning, the scallop larvae is carried in the water column until it reaches a size that is too heavy to float. Like the mussel it develops a byssal thread which it then uses to attach itself to substrata such as seaweed or rock. This helps to minimize predation but, after about 60 days, it casts off its byssal thread and migrates to the seabed to begin its bottom life. This is because the King Scallop can live for over 20 years and can grow to the relatively large size of 20cm/8″ plus. The Queen Scallop can grow up to 9cm/3.5″ plus but has a shorter lifespan of 3-4 years. So hanging by a thread would not be a practical proposition. The King Scallop prefers to stay in one place and will recess itself into the seabed covering its flat upper shell with a thin layer of silt or sand as a protection against predators. The Queen Scallop on the other hand lies on top of the seabed and can change locations from season to season.
The King and Queen scallops are true hermaphrodites. The gonad (roe) contains in excess of 100 million eggs with the pink part being female and the white part male. Reproduction is oviparous with both eggs and sperm being released directly into the open sea where cross-fertilization takes place. They can also vary the release between eggs and sperm so as to avoid fertilising their own emissions. Depending on local conditions, spawning takes place between June and August. This is followed by a period of recovery which is why the scallop roe can appear shrunken and almost empty from mid-September to early December.
Like most seafood, scallops are seriously good for one’s health. They are rich in protein and a very good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. High in Vitamin B12, they are also a good source of key minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. And at Mussel Inn we offer you a choice of new and traditional recipes that bring out the rich, sweet and tender taste of this delicacy.