The elegant great scallop was well-known in Galicia in the Middle Ages and became the emblem of pilgrims returning from Santiago de Compostela. To attest to their journey, they were in the habit of bringing back a Pectens maximus shell, which they attached to their hat or coat – thus the French name of Saint-Jacques (Santiago) given to this mollusk. Zoology, however, gave it the less poetic name of Jacob’s comb. It quickly became one of the most recognizable attributes of the pilgrim, along with the staff, beggar’s pouch and wide-brimmed hat.
The “nugget,” or what is often referred to simply as the “scallop,” is actually the animal’s adductor muscle. It is made up of tender ivory-colored strands with a sweet mild flavor. The “scallop rings” are the brownish bumps surrounding the meat. The orangey-pink (female) or cream-colored (male) coral is a prized delicacy.
What is the difference between a scallop and a great scallop (Saint-Jacques in French)?
These two names are the source of misunderstandings, depending on the country and region.
From a biological point of view, Pecten maximus, jacobaeus and fumatus are “true” great scallops and the largest representatives of the Pectinidae family. The other genera are known simply as “scallops” and include Chlamys (Icelandic scallop), Placopecten (sea scallop), Argopecten, Patinopecten, etc. Great scallops have one rounded and one totally flat and unridged shell, while scallops have two rounded shells.
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