The start of the winter can mean just one thing on Cape Cod: it’s time for Cape scallops. Also known as bay scallops, these sweet and tiny shellfish come into season on Nantucket––where ours are harvested––on November 1. The season closes on March 31.
The cold waters of Nantucket Sound are the perfect breeding ground for the tiny, wild bay scallop. There, fishermen working from small boats harvest them by hand. They are brought onto the boats alive, taken to shore, and shucked immediately. The work is tough and very weather-dependent: wind and ice can be an issue, and any time the air temperature does not reach 28 degrees by 10:00 a.m., fishing for the day is not allowed.
That’s because air temperatures that are cooler than water temperatures will kill the scallops immediately. And not only would those scallops being brought to shore for sale be affected, so would any scallops too small to harvest––which would deplete the population.
Bay scallops are much smaller than the sea scallops and tend to be sweeter because of their size. They are typically 60 to 100 count in a pound, while the average pound of sea scallops tends to have only 10-20 scallops.
To us the main thing is this: Cape scallops are absolutely scrumptious, and can be served in a great variety of ways. Some scallop lovers like them best raw, dressed with nothing but a little olive oil and a shaving of lemon zest, Italian “crudo” style. They can also be wrapped in bacon and grilled. They’re delicious battered and fried.
Our favorite way to eat them? Either baked or pan-seared with a little butter and a light coating of bread crumbs––we like to keep it simple so their sweet flavor comes through.