When you come across lobster mushrooms in the forest, they don’t always look appetizing. Often they’re partially covered with leaves and dirt. Part of the mushroom might look nice and firm, but another part could be deep red and mushy. Sometimes they are partially bug-eaten and occasionally, bugs have set up a happy home in the mushroom. Still, they are among the wild mushrooms I enjoy the most.
In the woods, I look for the cleanest and firmest specimens.
A good looking lobster on the outside doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a surprise waiting inside.
The first thing I do is wash the outside of the lobster with a spray of water. These fungi are very firm and will not suffer any difficulties from a thorough washing. Then I slice slice them into fairly thin slices, usually about an eighth inch thick. In the picture above, you can see some dark brown spots in the flesh. Some kind of bug had a leasing/buffet arrangement going on. No problem. Just cut out anything that you don’t like the look of. That’s a fairly broad and subjective statement and to be sure some people will fuss over lobster mushrooms more than others. I cut away any punky areas and anything dark brown. Ideally, what you want to be left with is either red or white.
The batch of lobsters I collected today were pretty good looking on the outside. None the less, I discarded quite a bit. In fact there were a few entire mushrooms that looked fine on the outside but on the inside looked way too yucky for me to consider eating.
Above you can see todays finds cleaned up and ready for cooking or drying. All of these were found in a small area of one forest, a hot-spot you might say, and they were collected in less than a half an hour.
Often when the lobsters, or Hypomyces lactifluorum, are fruiting, there are plenty of them around, so I’ll come home with loads to eat, give to friends, and still have lots to dry in my dehydrator. They dry up really nicely and when you reconstitute them, they retain their firm and chewy texture.
There are plenty of ways to cook lobster mushrooms. Try them fried up in a little butter and served on toast. Or cook them up in a stir-fry. They’re great in omelets but be sure to cook the mushrooms first, then add them to the omelet. I would not consider eating these fungi raw.