Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bay Scallops and Scalloping In Florida

Scallop season is winding down here in Pure Florida and I haven't gone yet. In fact, it's a little doubtful if I will get out there this season, which is too bad, because it's been a pretty good season.
Bay scallops are only harvested in July , August, and early September. I'm not posting dates or limits because the FWC loves to change regulations and seasons so I don't want to mislead anyone.
These little molluscs are bivalves like oysters, clams, and mussels. Unlike their bi cousins, the scallop has rudimentary jet propulsion abilities and can jet randomly about by clapping it's shells together and ejecting water.

It's not intelligent jet propulsion like the nerds of the mollusca phylum ... the cephalopods. A squid knows where it's going when it jets.
All a scallop needs is to put a foot or two between it and a creeping starfish.

Scalloping is just snorkeling with a purpose ... and sometimes with a porpoise ... although more commonly with a dolphin.

To scallop, you leap into the water with your mask, fins, snorkel, and a little mesh bag and seek out the neatly packaged morsels hiding in the seagrass beds. This is done in water anywhere from 4 to 8 feet deep usually, so you don't have to be an athlete or super diver to enjoy it. Kids absolutely love it.

Don't forget your dive flag or you will pay for that mistake ... either via a ticket from the FWC officers or via a prop to the head. Either way it hurts.

This is a live bay scallop showing it's lovely blue eyes and some of it's inner workings. All bivalves are filter feeders who slurp suspended nutrients out of the surrounding waters. Scallop eyes don't see a sharp picture, but they do sense light and dark. You can often see them react as your hand approaches for the grab. This might be just closing up shop or actually flitting about via jet propulsion.

Besides jet propulsion, scallops have a simple camoflauge scheme. One shell is dark and the other is light in color. Light side up in sand and dark side up in grass. Certainly their beautiful blue eyes help in this also.

They don't always get it right of course, which makes it easy for the scallop seeking snorkelers.

In North America, we are pretty wasteful when it comes to the way we eat these little buggers. The same people who slurp down whole clams, oysters, and mussels only eat the single adductor muscle that operates the scallop shell. The rest of the body is discarded.


There's been some research into bay scallop aquaculture and it's already done in Asia, but until Americans learn to eat the whole thing, the labor process is too expensive for good profits.

Because of that cultural oddity, the cleaning process is long and ardorous. A blunt knife (old butterknife) is slipped between the shells to sever one end of the adductor muscle, the shell is opened and a spoon is used to first tear the scallops gills and visceral mass out, and then the same spoon scoops the desired white adductor muscle off the shell and into the ice chest.

Pro scallop cleaners use a small shop vac to slurp the visceral mass away, but I just use my wife. She grew up scalloping and is somewhat of a scallop cleaning machine.

Personally, I would take shrimp over scallops any day of the week, but it is a blast to snorkel the grassflats on the scallop quest.
We don't go for our limit anymore due to the severe shortage of fun during the cleaning process. Instead, we try to get just enough for a nice scallop dinner while avoiding mass scallop cleaning drudgery.

No scallops were harmed in the production of this post. We were in Pasco county for these pics and that is south of the legal harvesting area.

The scallop pictured is still out there somewhere.


Sharon said...

Mmmmm...I love me some scallops! I had no idea that was only part of the critter though. Learn something new everyday!

roger said...

mmmmmmmmm love the scallops. i have wondered what became of the rest of the critter. should have known.

when i eat clams, which i like cooked, i mostly leave the adductor muscles as they are very tough and stringy and leave bits stuck between my teeth. same for oysters, which i only like raw. picky eater.

Hurricane Teen said...

You know, I don't think I've ever had a scallop in my entire life. But my part of the family has always been called "Freshwater (Insertmylastnamehere)s" We got our food from The River...It's simply not in our tradition. It looks like great fun, though. I hope you don't have any readers from England with your use of the word "Bugger" :-0 There goes the "family friendly" tag! ha ha

Anonymous said...

I used to love eating scallops but having seen these photos and those 'blue eyes'....I just can't do it anymore ;) I just saw some fellows last night with their 'snorkle' purchases and thought to myself...don't forget your diving flag ;)

robin andrea said...

I had no idea that scallops have blue eyes. That's a lovely detail. I've never eaten a scallop and am delighted to know this one is still out there somewhere, enjoying life.

Cathy said...

Well. To see those blue eyes . . . thank you.

Reading so many of your posts - I like to imagine the feel of sliding - moving through water. I've just never been there; I mean 'at home' in a natural body of water. It must be delicious. In my next life . . .

Thunder Dave said...

Next year we'll have to go with you. Hey it looks like we're finally going to get some more rain, so if I can get some pics of a good storm I'll post 'em.

Floridacracker said...

A wonderful thunderstorm and good rain has chased me in off the "mowflex" ...

You might be surprised at the goo that surrounds that clean white muscle.

we clean them while still at sea so the offal goes into the Gulf of Florida much to the delight of the small pinfish that gather for the feast.

We didn't scallop either since it's a West coast thang. No shallow water offshore St. Augie.

They are the brightest blue ... I think there's one variety that has 400 eyes.
Euell Gibbons published a book called "Stalking The Blue Eyed Scallop" too.

... and let's hope that it is spawning like a wild crazy mollusc, so that next year's crop is just as good!

"In my next life."
That's funny, because the Gulf feels like heaven to me, whether I'm in it or on it.

Save the corn!
What has gotten into the midwest? How's that river beneath the bar we went to?

vicki said...

One time I was on CBS This Morning as a whiz kid therapist who knew about adoption. Anyway, the makeup guy who slathered the stuff all over me (I never wear any) talked like Martin Short in Father of the Bride- except he was for real. He kept saying, "I lubba dees eyes yours! Haaazel eyes! I jus lubba dees eyes!" For some reason, seeing the blue "eyes" of that scallop, my first thought was "I jus lubba dees eyes!" I think I've inhaled to much campfire smoke. Time to go home. I will have crabbing pictures for you tomorrow; it's only fair.

kathy a. said...

"blue eyes. my scallop's got blue eyes..." [insert drippy musical soundtrack....]

i don't like to eat them, also preferring shrimp, and that's even before i heard about all the innards. [i've never liked lobsters since the time i found out about their green innards, during a particularly ticklish time in pregnancy. ugh.]

Deb said...

Mmmmm...scallops...pretty pricey here in midcontinent Minnesota, but they are a treat. So why is it that we do not eat the rest of the scallop?

Floridacracker said...

Looking forward to seeing your crabs.

Kathy A,
Yeah, on lobsters, I only go for the white muscle ... no innards.

It's a cultural thing. They are eaten as a whole body in Asia. I have seen some recipes for the whole scallop baked in the shell, but I don't think many Americans choose to eat them that way.

Rurality said...

So, you don't eat the whole thing either?

I love scallops but I find that outside Florida they are very rarely cooked well. They're either overdone or underdone and I'm not sure which is worse! So I don't eat them much.

misti said...

Aww, it says, hello, please don't eat me, I have cute little blue accents on me. :) I've never gone hunting for scallops, but lobsters on the other hand....cute and good!

SophieMae said...

Oh, how I do love me some scallops! I remember watching my parents shuck oysters, every once n a while sliding a raw one down... grossed me out no end. To this day I don't do oysters. But I can put away those scallops, yessir. Love shrimp, but scallops are special.

threecollie said...

Wow, I have always loved scallops, although of course, up here they come out of the freezer case rather than the bay. I am sure glad someone else did the cleaning though!

bivalve hunter said...

That is a beautiful photo of the live scallop. If you are interested, you might want to take a look at my new book: Bivalve Seashells of Florida, by going to I would like to send you a complimentary copy. Contact me at one of the email addresses mentioned on the website.

I've been enjoying your website for about 6 months now - I visit it almost daily!

Trish Hartmann

Floridacracker said...

No, I'm a muscle muncher too.

Hey I still need a link if I'm gonna stick you on the blogroll!
Lobsters trump scallops.

In the park service at St.Aug, oyster roasts were our company picnic back in the '80's and I like them then, but rarely eat them now.

I wonder what the commercial scallop houses do with the offal?

Floridacracker said...

Welcome to Pure Florida!
Thank you so much for the kind offer!

You just made my day :)

pissed off patricia said...

All good! Scallops, oysters (raw, back when it was safe to eat them that way)clams, all wonderful food. We used to wade out and get scallops. I think we lived in Panama City, Fla at the time. I was a little kid and it was fun. Then we cleaned them and my mom fried them. I was eating them about as fast as she could cook them. I could live from only eating seafood the rest of my life.

We had shrimp last night cooked in water, beer and lemon juice. Chilled just a bit and dipped right into cocktail sauce that was mixed with horseradish and lemon juice. A little homemade garlic bread and a Caesar salad to boot. Serious eating happened here.

Remember the worm snake dealie you did here some time back? When those are babies, are they shiny and black?

Mr Pop found something in the yard today. It's about as big around as a toothpick, moves like a snake, is only about three to four inches long, is glossy black all over with no markings and tries to bite when it's picked up. The first time he picked it up it did bite him with this tiny little mouth. Didn't break the skin or anything but it was defensive. The only way aside from the biting you tell which end is its head is the end that leads. I mean both ends look alike when you look down on him. Any guesses? We've checked our snake books and Mr Pop is all about snakes but we can't figure out what this little dude might be.

Doug Taron said...

Where I grew up was just north of the range of bay scallops, though we used to get them on Cape Cod. They're wonderful.

Stacey063 said...

I think I'm going to have a hard time eating them now that I've seen those eyes! Thanks, FC....

But I do love your photos - you should be doing a book!

Beauti 365 said...

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