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Food of the month - Scallops

August 2014

Scallops are on many British menus these days and are often chosen for their delicate flavour, sometimes enhanced with special sauces.

They are a fascinating member of the shellfish family and can be found all over the world, although only in salt water and not in lakes or rivers. They are part of the Phylum Mollusca, a group that also includes snails, sea slugs, mussels and oysters, and are bivalves meaning they have two hinged shells. They swim around by clapping their shells quickly which moves a jet of water back and sends them forward, often covering surprising distances.

One of the weird things about scallops is their eyes. They actually have up to 100 simply brilliantly blue eyes set in lines on the edges of their two mantles. Their actual vision is limited and they cannot see shapes but they respond to light and dark and certainly the shadow of an approaching predator.

Scallops feed on plankton and are still harvested wild from the oceans although increasingly they are being farmed as part of aquaculture projects. The large Atlantic sea scallop is mainly found off the north eastern coasts of America and Canada but Japan and China are also big producers.

Here in the UK there is an active scallop industry using mainly dredgers off our coasts.

Like many sea foods, scallops are surprisingly full of great ingredients. They are packed full of protein, delivering around 16 to 23 grams of protein in a 3.5 ounce serving. They are very low in fat although have a fairly high level of cholesterol, with 30 to 50 milligrams in a 3.5 ounce serving. Good news is that they also contain reasonable levels of vitamin B12, iodine, phosphorous and selenium plus traces of zinc and magnesium. Sodium content is around 160 to 260 milligrams per 3.5 ounce serving and the same serving would provide around 80 to 100 calories.

As with all fish these days, one has to be aware of the mercury content but both wild and farmed scallops are generally relatively low in mercury.

One problem with scallops is trying to cook them to perfection! They require quick, careful cooking to ensure they don’t become tough or rubbery - overcooking can ruin them and deplete their nutritional content too. But cooked properly, a scallop can taste fabulous - and do you good, too!


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