The History of Scallops

the history of scallops

Scallops are great. They’re not sour or too sweet, and they’re far from bland. You can find them in appetizers, as meals, and even as part of snacks. This is true around the world, which begs the question, what is the history of scallops as a food?

If something is so popular in so many different cultures, there has to be an interesting story behind it. While there are multiple species of scallops, because they’ve evolved in different places, not every type tastes the same. Yet, where they do show up as something people can eat, they have a foothold in people’s diets. 

Scallops didn’t become popular with the technological expansion of shipping, they have been popular food items even longer than that. So if you’re interested in learning more about the history of scallops and how they came to be as common as they are, we’ve done the research.

The Recent History of Scallops

Scallops aren’t plants, fungi, or anything else that’s difficult to preserve years later. Scallops are mollusks, a type of invertebrate with large calcareous shells. They don’t have backbones, but their shells fossilize similar to how bones would. This means we can still find evidence of the ancient ancestors of modern-day scallops.

Archeologists have found a good number of species similar to scallops from 300 million years ago. They’ve also been found in the stomachs of animal fossils, human ancestors, and old humans throughout history. Before civilization existed, people have been eating some kind of scallops.

When it comes to modern civilization, the history of scallops has multiple stories. Its popularity did not grow the same way everywhere.

European Scallops

Scallops’ popularity across Europe is a bit difficult to pin down. They’ve been a common food item for centuries and a part of the culture. Even since the time of ancient Rome, the goddess Venus was displayed as coming from a scallop shell. That’s how long people across Europe have devoured and incorporated scallops into their culture. Since then, scallops have been considered a meal that can bring together people of different European nations. 

Each European culture has an old recipe that uses scallops:

  • In France, there is the “coquille de Saint-Jacques.” 
  • Italy has the “conchiglia di San Giacomo.”
  • The Dutch have “sint-jakobsschelp.”
  • In Poland, there is the “Małże Świątego Jakuba.”

Japanese Scallops

Being that Japan is an island nation, it should come as no surprise that they have a thriving fishing industry that includes all kinds of fish and shellfish. Of course, scallops were going to be one of the popular ones.

While the first time they began to cultivate scallops is not confirmed, in the early 1900s until the 1960s, Japanese farmers made great strides to improve and expand their ability to produce scallops. Their scallop culture techniques production levels are more than 300%, driving the industry up today.

American Scallops

In New England, back when Europe was first colonizing the New World, they discovered many of the pretty shells many appreciated back in England. Scallops were originally popular for their aesthetic more than their taste, so many people picked up the shells to look at. 

While it wasn’t unknown that scallops were edible, they dipped in popularity with the move across the ocean. It wasn’t until settlers realized how plentiful they were that scallops became a popular food item again.

As many realized they could make a living farming them and growing their own, scallops, along with other seafood, became a big export for locations across New England.

Get Scallops at Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice uses scallops in several dishes available on our menu. There are two different entrees where you can find scallops. 

Our Seared Scallops dish features the delicacy as the centerpiece ingredient. We cover the scallops in spicy lobster veloute and serve it with saffron/leek risotto and vegetables. Seafood Skewers serves a collection of shellfish and other seafood together, with grilled scallops as one of the ingredients. The other ingredients include lobster, shrimp, and lemon/garlic butter over linguine.

If you’d like to try one of our scallop recipes, make a reservation. You can find out for yourself why there’s such a long history of people eating scallops.