A Choosy set from the Fungus Family
You could get excited about lobster mushrooms because they have a highly variable taste but aside their edibility, they are parasitic in the sense that they are not mushrooms in themselves.
Lobster Mushrooms ((Hypomyces lactifluorum)
The colonizing fungus, appears to be quite choosy. It tends to colonize either members of the Russula genus or milk-caps, in the Lactarius genus. Fortunately for humans, mushrooms in these genera are edible, and they are often enjoyed on their own.
They can grow on other mushrooms but particularly,on the Russula or Lactarius causing them to turn reddish yellow in color.
The “lobster mushroom” creates a beautiful, bright orange covering over the mushroom, the surface of which is rather hard, and dotted with tiny pimples.
These parasitic species of mushroom grow gregariously in woods or alone; widely distributed and frequently encountered mostly in summer and fall.
As the fungus encloses the host mushroom, it also develops small white dots which are likened to pimples, turning the lobster mushroom somewhat coarse to the touch.
If the mushroom is not harvested, the fungus will contort the host into a shape which that makes it almost unrecognizable.
The taste of a lobster mushroom is close to that of an actual lobster, with a faintly marine flavor and a dense texture. In some Lactarius species, a lobster mushroom can actually be a bit spicy as well. This interesting group of mushrooms can be used in a wide range of dishes; they take well to baking, Sauteing, and frying, and their unique flavor can complement a variety of foods. They are also superb on their own, or fried in a little bit of butter.
Mushroom guides do not advise picking and eating this mushroom unless you can identify the host, since the fungus could potentially colonize a poisonous mushroom.
Identifying the host can be very challenging, and some mushroom hunters take their chances, since lobster mushrooms have been eaten for hundreds of years with no reported illnesses, but if you aren’t experienced with mushroom identification, then it is advisable to go with a more experienced hunter.
If you don’t feel like harvesting these mushrooms on your own, some markets and grocers carry them during mushroom season.
Look for firm specimens with no soft spots, slime, or obvious dark discoloration, and store the mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week before using.
You can also purchase dried lobster mushrooms which can be re hydrated for cooking.