Lobster mushroomOn the Hunt for the Lobster Mushroom.

While on holiday in Canada catching up with the in-laws, I was tempted with a bit of foraging as we were surrounded by woods.  It had been a hot summer, but it rained the first two days of my holiday. This might annoy some people, but if you are fond of a wild mushroom or two, then a bit of rain is perfect.

In the first couple of days I had a look around and found a few hedgehog mushrooms, but in very small numbers.  I visited an excellent farmers market where there were two mushroom foragers selling their wares. They had some boletes, plenty of chanterelles and a large quantity of lobster mushrooms. I had tasted them for the first time last year and they were excellent.  Also, after a bit of research, I realized that there was no way you could mistake them for anything poisonous – the incredible colour makes them easy to spot and identify.

About one week after the rain, sure enough in a spot where I had seen some previously, up popped several large, firm and perfect specimens of the Lobster Mushroom, shining away against the dark leaf mold.

Interestingly the lobster mushroom is actually a mushroom that has been infected by another fungus.  In this case, a white milk cap (genera Lactarius) that has been attacked by a parasitic ascomycete fungus (a fungi subkingdom, and with over 64,000 different species).  This turns the white milk cap into a bright orange Lobster mushroom – and the bonus is that it makes the host firmer and tastier than the original, while also supposedly giving it a seafood like taste, although I have to say this was lost on us.

The inside of the mushroom is white and the appearance is lobster like – fried in garlic and butter it was extremely tasty and two good specimens fed 6 of us with a generous portion.  Excellent with white wine…

Sadly I have never found any Lobster Mushrooms in the UK – although they are supposed to grow in Europe.  Luckily our mushroom season is soon approaching (although we need some of that rain) and in the meantime there is elderberry and blackberry to get you started.