Wild Gourmet Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)

Nov 17, 2012 by     18 Comments    Posted under: Focus Ingredients, Mushrooms, Wild Foods
Lobster Mushroom Breaking Through

Lobster Mushroom Breaking Through

The Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) is one weird gourmet edible.  The Lobster fungus itself does not have its own fruiting body, and is incapable of forming what we know as a mushroom.  Rather, it spreads itself about the forest in the wind (I’m assuming) and attacks growing mushroom bodies of other fungal species, most commonly in the Russula and Lactarius families.  What happens next is completely bazaar.  The parasitic Lobster fungus begins to eat and transform the host body.  It literally dissolves the gills, reshapes the cap, wacks out the stalk, turns the mushroom’s exterior from white to orange, and transforms the brittle texture of the host into a solid, very firm gourmet delight.  What’s especially odd is that the host mushrooms are typically some of the most bland and undesirable mushrooms in the forest.  But once they’ve been hit by the Lobster parasite, they become one of the best edibles in the land.  Plentiful, beautiful, easy to identify, and very tasty, these wild gourmet treats should be on your “let’s go find dinner in the woods” list.

How to Identify Lobster Mushrooms

  • Medium-large, vessel-shaped mushroom, reminiscent of an upside down pyramid
  • Outside is brightly colored orange to reddish-orange
  • Gills of the original host mushroom are transformed, turning into blunt ridges.  As the parasitic transformation continues, the ridges often disappear completely, leaving only a smooth skin with little bumps on it.
  • The inside flesh is white and firm when fresh
  • Sometimes the cap is a lighter color orange (even yellow) than the underside and stock
  • Often has a faint aroma of seafood
  • Grow in the Fall and are plentiful after rain.
  • Are often found along side Chanterelles
  • In the Pacific Northwest, the original host mushroom is usually the Cascade russula
Lobster Mushroom Easy to Find

Lobster Mushroom Easy to Find

Lobster Mushroom Ridges

Lobster Mushroom Ridges

Perfectly Modified Lobster Mushroom

Perfectly Modified Lobster Mushroom

Perfect Wild Gourmet Lobster Mushroom

Perfect Wild Gourmet Lobster Mushroom

 

Edibility of Lobster Mushrooms

It should be noted that the Lobster Mushroom fungus can attack deadly poisonous mushrooms as well, though not nearly as commonly seen.  As such, it is probably wise to know the host mushrooms well enough to determine what is growing around the Lobsters that you find.  Most mushroom books caution about this.  However, I recently read a study that showed that the lobster fungus changes the nature of the host body so much that it can actually destroy the toxins found in the original poisonous host.  I’m no expert on this, so do what you will.  But just know that Lobster mushrooms are sold in stores and through restaurant distributors all over the world, so they are obviously deemed generally very safe.

Lobster mushrooms are extremely delicious.  They are very firm textured, and hold up well to a long sauteing, braising, stewing, or whatever.  That subtle seafood/fishy aroma disappears once cooked, but the bright orange color does not go away, making them a beautiful addition to anything you put them in.  They are best sauteed in some butter, onions, garlic, and herbs, then added to whatever you’d like to put them in (excellent on toast, in pasta, over meat, or even on a salad). Like most wild mushrooms, Lobster Mushrooms need to be cooked prior to eating.

How Best to Preserve Lobster Mushrooms

When you find them, you’ll likely find gallons of them. Go ahead and wash them thoroughly under water, getting all the dirt and pine/fur needles out of the nooks and crannies.  Allow to air dry, then cut any bad spots away.  Make sure to check the stalk for worms.  If you find any, just keep cutting up the stalk until they are not there any more.  If they’ve spread into the cap, toss the whole thing and grab one of your other 300 to deal with.

From here, you can slice, chop, or leave whole, depending on your preservation method.  Lobsters dehydrate and reconstitute well, though get a touch rubbery in the process.  I have found that the best way to preserve them for storage is to chop them into 1/4″ pieces, saute them in olive oil and butter, place them in vacuum pack bags, and freeze them.  They’ll stay delicious this way for up to a year in your freezer.  Simply pull out a bag and add the frozen mushrooms to your favorite mushroom calling dish as you cook it.  Yum!

The Bald Gourmet picks and eats delicious wild gourmet lobster mushrooms.

 

 

18 Comments + Add Comment

  • What will lobster mushrooms be like if not fried before freezing? I had to freeze them after chopping and grating and now I fear I’ve made them inedible

    • The mushrooms should still be fine. I’ve froze then raw before too. They just don’t last as long for some reason so use them sooner than later.

  • My wife and I found about 6 lbs in just a few minutes at one of our favorite camping spots. Pleanty more where those came from. We are thinking about hunting once a week and selling our find to local restaurants and produce markets….and thoughts on how to go about this??
    THX

  • *Fir needles ;)

  • *Fir needles

  • Hi. We had picked a bunch of lobster mushrooms in bc. Brought them home in a bag in the back of a covered pick up. They seem to have a white mild on them. It took us 5 days to get home. They are still fairly firm. Are they still safe to eat in your opinion.

  • Love the PNW for all the wonderful mushrooms. I pick and process many pounds of Lobbies every year. my favorite (and most time/energy consuming) is pickling them. Always make a couple cases, freeze, and dehydrate the rest. Usually spend up to a week picking and processing each season. Your info is spot on and it is obvious you know the Lobster Mushroom well! Thanks!

    • I haven’t tried pickling them before. I’ll have to give that a try! Thanks for the comment.

  • looking for someone who wants fresh wild lobster mushrooms from the forest around airazona

  • do you know ware I could sell wild lobster mushrooms?

  • […] Yeager, J. (2012, May 4). Wild Gourmet Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://thebaldgourmet.com/wild-gourmet-lobster-mushroom-hypomyces-lactifluorum/ […]

  • Hi,

    I am freezing most of my lobster mushies like you suggested and drying a few. I was wondering how long fresh lobsters will last in a paper bag in the fridge. If I don’t cut the bottoms off, can they keep relatively well for longer than 1 week? Is there a better way to keep them fresh and whole longer? Thanks for any advise you might have.

    • Hi Christina. You should be good for a week in the fridge, but they start to get funky around 10 days or so.

  • Thank you for the great storage information!! Trying it today. This was my first harvest of lobster mushrooms
    I love them and they are so pretty!!

    • Sure thing Robin. They are a great mushroom. Hope you enjoy.

  • Try searching for chicken of the woods in google. They look a little like lobsters but grow on trees. Typically oak. Probably not a bad idea to search the tree as well. GL

  • Can I send you a picture of a mushroom to identify? I think it’s a lobster mushroom, but I found it growing on a tree stump, which doesn’t seem common. It looks pretty much like the real thing.

    Let me know.

    Thanks,

    Tony

    • Lobsters don’t grow on trees/stumps, so it is definitely not them. As Anomamush said, it very well could be a chicken of the woods, or even some other type of polypore. Keep searching though. Lobsters are out now and are a great eat.

I love hearing from my readers, so please go ahead and leave a comment!


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I'm Jothan Yeager and I am The Bald Gourmet. After years of experimenting in my kitchen, creating delicious food and eating at amazing places around the world, I wanted a place to share my experiences with everyone. Thus the Bald Gourmet was born. I hope to open the doors of great food and great cooking to you, to inspire you to reach beyond prepared boxed meals, and to teach you of a world of deliciousness that has brought joy to me and those around me. Please enjoy the adventure which is The Bald Gourmet and share it with those you love.