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Lobster Mushroom: Key Facts

Did you know that lobster mushrooms are made from one fungus parasitizing another? Or that they can be used for food as well as for dyeing? Keep reading to learn more about these and other lobster mushroom key facts!

Quick Facts About Lobster Mushrooms

Scientific Name:Hypomyces lactifluorum
Physical Description:Large, heavy, irregular mushrooms with short, fat stems and wavy, funnel-shaped caps. Produced when the hypomyces fungus parasitizes other mushrooms, mainly russula and lactarius mushrooms. The fungus gives the mushrooms a hard, slightly bumpy, red to reddish-orange crust, much like a lobster’s shell.
Distribution:Parts of North America, Europe, and Asia
Habitat:They thrive in temperate forests and grow under various types of trees, especially hemlocks and other conifers.
Edible?Yes, as long as the host mushroom is a russula or lactarius mushroom.
Flavor:Mild, earthy, sweet, with undertones of crustacean–may have hints of lobster flavor.
Aroma:Mild, mushroomy, vaguely crustacean.
Season:Mid summer through mid fall.
Look-Alikes:None; sometimes confused with the chanterelle, but lobster mushrooms are much larger and heavier than chanterelles.
Uses:– Eaten fresh and cooked in various recipes.
– Dried and added as a flavoring to various recipes.
– Sometimes used as a meat substitute in recipes.
– Used to dye fabrics and fibers

What are Lobster Mushrooms?

Lobster mushrooms are mushrooms that have been parasitized by the hypomyces fungus. This fungus takes over other mushroom species, mostly russula and lactarius mushrooms, giving them a red shell and improving their flavor and texture.

Lobster mushrooms are heavy and completely dense inside. If you were to cut one open, you would find that the interior is white, solid, and slightly softer than the red-orange outer shell.

Lobster mushrooms are so-named because of their lobster-colored shell, meat-like texture, and mild crustacean flavor. They can often be substituted for lobster and other meats in a variety of recipes.

Where Do Lobster Mushrooms Grow?

Lobster mushrooms grow throughout the northern and central United States as well as southern Canada. They are also thought to grow in parts of Europe and Russia, though scientists disagree whether this is the same species as the lobster mushroom or a closely related but different species.

Lobster mushrooms grow in temperate forests and woodland regions, especially near hemlock trees, though they will grow near many other types of trees as well. They don’t grow directly from the trees but sprout from the ground underneath the trees, near their trunks.

These mushrooms are in season during the mid to late summer through early fall, usually July through October depending on region.

Are Lobster Mushrooms Edible?

The hypomyces fungus rarely parasitizes mushrooms other than the russula and lactarius species, both of which are edible. If you find a lobster mushroom that has been created from one of these host species, then yes, it is edible.

It is, however, important to try and identify the host mushroom if possible. Occasionally, the hypomyces fungus will parasitize toxic mushrooms, and eating these lobsters will make you sick.

Conclusion

Lobster mushrooms are created when a parasite fungus overtakes a host mushroom. The result is a large, heavy mushroom that is red instead of white and much more palatable to eat–much like a lobster.

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