Latin Name: Hypomyces lactifluorum
Other Names: n/a
- a parasitic fungi that grows on and takes over another mushroom, usually this being members of the Russula and Lactarius species, most notably Russula brevipes and Lactarius piperatus
- original mushroom is white, however after takeover the fruiting body is colored yellow, orange or red depending on maturity (the darker, the more mature)
- cap and stalk are fused as one, or at times hardly distiguishable
- the entire outer layer of the mushroom encrusts with the bright orange-red “shell”
- remnants of gills (the gill shape) may be present
- inner flesh is white, and firm (when fresh) or spongy (when old)
- outer encrusted surface is slightly coarse or granular in texture
- specimen sizes will vary from small fist-sized to large double fist-sized ones
- found along hiking trails
- found in sandy soil, or gravel, or rich leaf litter, on forest floor
- a choice edible mushroom
- seafood-like “lobster” flavor
- excellent, dense texture
- typically found from late July and into the fall
- learn more about the lobster mushroom from mushroom-collecting.com
This is by far one of my most favorite mushrooms. Upon my first experience with and consumption of this mushroom, I understood why it is called the Lobster mushroom. The look, flavor and texture all eerily resemble the lobster, and its flesh. (And I say eerily, only because my lifestyle does not include the consumption of animal products.) The mushroom cooks exceptionally well (I have never tried it raw), and releases some of those bright colored juices during the cooking process, along with the seafood smell. It does not shrink during cooking, like most mushrooms, and maintains its dense and slightly, yet pleasantly rubbery texture. It is an excellent and substantial mushroom to find and very easy to identify. I would say without a doubt this is the easiest to identify mushroom, as it looks so grossly different from all other mushrooms in shape, color, features, etc. And it also happens to be one of the best edibles!
Fresh specimens are best, so look for yellowish-orange to dark orange colored ones. Once they turn dark red, they are usually too old and in the decomposing stages. Before cutting the specimen for taking, test its texture by gently squeezing on an edge to see if it is worth taking or if it is best left alone to propagate more of itself. One final advantage of this mushroom is that it is rarely infected by insects, namely larvae. The very odd time there may be some larvae tunnels or living larvae that can usually be cut out without missing much of the mushroom.
The toughest part about this mushroom really is just cleaning it for consumption. Sometimes very clean and well shaped specimens are found, but usually the mushroom is so deformed that there are many crypts with soil, sand, litter, and such in it. The mushroom is quite hardy, so the best way I have found to wash it well, and avoid any grittiness is with a small hand brush under running water. Some edges are brittle and may break off, but otherwise this method cleans the mushroom well for eating. I usually then slice it up and toss into a pan with a little virgin, coconut oil, sautéing it with lid on or off for about 10 minutes, or longer depending on the quantity in the pan. With the lid on you will get a softer final product, and with the lid off you will get a slightly drier and/or crispier final product.