Family scalloping season, which begins on October 1 each year, has special meaning to Nantucketers. In addition to providing Nantucket Bay Scallops – these succulent bivalve mollusks – to discriminating home chefs, scalloping is signal that we can all take a breath after the busy summer season and revel in Nantucket’s beauty and bounty.
Planning your scalloping trip is dependent on a number of factors – When is low tide? What does the weather look like? Sun is good, warm is good, cold and wind are bad, rain, absent cold and wind, can be OK. And, darn it, where are those waders, my rake and basket?
Assuming that everything comes together on the perfect day – we are off to scallop! Some scallopers wade out to chest depth where the eel grass is abundant, and push-pull the rake a mystical number of times to come up with a full take of scallops, whelks and crabs. The scallops must have a defined growth ring on the shell to be harvested, and , if they do – into the basket and the little guys, crabs and whelks go back into the water. Some scalloper prefer to peer through a ‘view box’, a wooden cube with one side open and plexiglas on the opposite side – an excellent way to see the little critters in the eel grass.
When the basket is full, the scalloper heads on back to the shore, carrying the rake and heavy basket brimming with Nantucket Bay scallops back to the car to head home for the next step, shucking.
Nantucket restaurants can start to get the bay scallops to add to their fall menus at the beginning of November when professional scallopers season opens. Within just a few days, there is a growing pile of empty scallop shells at Jetties Beach parking lot, where the shuckers dump their shells.
Nantucketers are a resourceful lot, people come to collect scallop shells which they then fashion into decorations, Christmas ornaments, scallop shell Christmas lights. More on this activity in the next blog.
See you on Island – Michelle Langlois, the Nantucket Bed and Breakfast Inn accidental innkeeper.