You’ve heard about the mild flavor and delicious texture of lobster mushrooms and you want to give them a try (or a dye?). How can you get your hands on them? In this article, we’ll talk about where to find lobster mushrooms as well as some tips for hunting them.
What You'll Learn Today
When Are Lobster Mushrooms in Season?
In most regions, lobster mushrooms have a relatively short season compared with other types of mushrooms. They can typically be found mid summer through early fall; though it depends on region, they are most commonly in season between July and September.
In southern areas, lobster mushrooms have a slightly longer season. For example, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, these mushrooms can be harvested from July through October in that state.
In regions further north, lobster mushrooms may not grow past August or September. That said, in some parts of the Rocky Mountains, they may be found growing as late as December.
Generally, though, regardless of region, the best time to find lobster mushrooms is late summer, typically August. This is the time when they are most likely to be plentiful in the wild, and they may also be more widely available for purchase.
Where Can You Find Wild Lobster Mushrooms?
Lobster mushrooms prefer damp, shaded growing conditions and, as a result, are typically found growing in woodland regions and hardwood forests. The mushrooms grow from the ground near the base of trees, especially conifers and some deciduous hardwoods.
Lobster mushrooms are often hidden under leaf litter and ground debris, so you may have to look carefully and dig around a bit to find them. That said, they can grow quite large, so once they have broken through the layer of forest matter on the ground, they should be rather easy to spot.
Lobster mushrooms can be found growing anywhere russula and lactarius mushrooms grow, as these are the mushrooms typically parasitized by the Hypomyces fungus. This fungus is what turns the plain white and unpalatable host mushrooms into delicious red lobster mushrooms.
Lobsters are commonly found throughout the northern and central regions of the United States and southern parts of Canada. They can also be found growing throughout Europe and in parts of Russia.
For more tips on how and where to find lobster mushrooms, check out the following video:
Lobster Mushroom Hunting Tips
If you’re planning to go out and find some lobster mushrooms yourself, there are several things to keep in mind that will help you have a successful hunt. Let’s take a look at some of these lobster mushroom hunting tips:
- Look closely: Lobster mushrooms are large and bright red-orange, so you would expect them to be easy to spot. But remember, they may be hiding under forest debris, so you may not be able to locate them as easily as you expect.
You may have to get down on your hands and knees and get a closer look at the ground to be able to spot these mushrooms hiding under dirt, leaves, and other plant materials.
- Dig around: Lobster mushrooms that have not fully “sprouted” may be completely concealed under moss and leaves. If you don’t see any mushrooms at first but have reason to believe they are there somewhere, gently pull back the layers of ground debris and dig around until you find what you’re looking for.
- Check the weight: Lobster mushrooms are noticeably heavy, like a paperweight. If you harvest what you think is a lobster mushroom but it feels lighter than you’re expecting, it is either past its prime and unfit for eating, or it may be another type of mushroom altogether.
- Cut it open: Lobster mushrooms are heavy because they are dense and completely solid inside. A great way to verify a mushroom’s identity is to slice it open from stem to cap; if it’s a lobster mushroom, the flesh inside should be white and free of holes and cavities.
- If you find one, keep looking: Lobster mushrooms tend to grow together. If you find one, there’s a pretty good bet that you will find several more in the same area.
- Identify the host mushroom: Lobster mushrooms typically develop from russula and lactarius mushrooms, but the parasitic fungus can sometimes colonize poisonous mushrooms as well. It’s important to try and identify the host mushroom before eating your wild lobster mushrooms.
To do this, pay attention to what other mushrooms are growing in the area. If you see a bunch of russula mushrooms, there’s a good chance that your lobsters developed from russulas, and they should be safe to eat.
Be aware of any poisonous mushroom species growing in your area, and if you spot any of these in the area where you are harvesting lobsters, it may be a good idea to find out from a professional whether your lobsters are edible or not.
Where Can You Buy Lobster Mushrooms?
What if you don’t consider yourself a mushroom forager, but you want to give lobster mushrooms a try? If you don’t want to harvest them yourself, you may want to think about buying them.
Fresh lobster mushrooms are only available seasonally, and they may be fairly expensive. You may also have to do some searching to find what you’re looking for.
Some places to look include:
- Farmer’s markets: Sometimes farmers and foragers who end up with an especially bountiful harvest will sell their excess lobster mushrooms at farmer’s markets. You may only find them for a couple of weeks out of the year, so be sure and check every time the market is open during lobster mushroom season.
- Specialty shops: Some specialty grocery and whole foods stores buy lobster mushrooms from local foragers while the mushrooms are in season. If you’re looking for lobster mushrooms, be sure and check any of these stores you may have in your area.
- Local Restaurants: Lobster mushrooms are a highly sought delicacy, prized for their mild flavor and meat like texture. Some upscale restaurants will buy them from local foragers for a few weeks out of the year when they are in season.
- Local foragers: Of course, you may also be able to buy them directly from any foragers in your area. If you don’t know any foragers personally, check for ads online or in local newspapers and bulletin boards.
- Online: If you can’t find any local suppliers, you may be able to find dried lobster mushrooms for sale online. These dried mushrooms will likely be available year-round and not just during lobster season.
You can find lobster mushrooms in hardwood forests throughout the northern United States and southern Canada, parts of Russia, and throughout Europe. If you can’t find any growing wild, you may be able to buy them at farmer’s markets, specialty stores, and gourmet restaurants when they are in season.