Each year as the weather warms and people start thinking about foraging for wild mushrooms, 27th Street gets quite a few visits from people searching for this or that variety of mushroom. Over the past couple weeks for instance, there was quite a bit of activity from people thinking about getting outdoors to chase down some elusive morels (I went on one morel hunt and came back with a decent bag)
Today somebody landed here after searching Lobster Mushrooms Ontario. Lobsters – Hypomyces lactifluorum – are plentiful in some of Southern Ontario’s forests, but absent in others. However, we’re way too early to think about these beauties. Lobsters are summer mushrooms around here, not spring mushrooms. I usually start finding them sometime in July, but they really come into their own in August, and least in the forests in which I find them.
Among the places I find a lot of lobsters is a forest with trails that get a lot of use from hikers and bicycle riders. These tasty edibles like to grow close to the trail in this forest, so much so that when I go there, I simply walk the trail, grabbing mushrooms within plain sight.
Granted, they don’t look so appetizing. Often partially hidden in the forest duff, they appear to be contorted, dirty, and sometimes parts of them are bug-eaten. Only pick the firm, scarlett-coloured ones. Once they get a deeper red, they’re usually past their expiry date and should be avoided.
If you come across some lobsters this summer (presuming you can positively identify them – DON’T GUESS), you’ve found yourself a real treat. Clean them under running water. A toothbrush might work for this (so I keep thinking – I never actually use one). Slice the mushrooms into eighth-inch slices, then simply cut away anything that isn’t white or red.
I love eating these mushrooms because they maintain their firm texture through cooking and they’re really tasty too. As well, they’re common enough that even when I can’t find anything else, I can usually come home with enough lobster mushrooms for a couple dinners.
As for where to go to find some H. lactifluorum this summer, you’re on your own. The best thing to do is get out and explore some different forests, When you find something good, look around at the forest you’re in. What trees are there? Is it open or brushy? Start paying close attention, especially to the trees. Are you in an oak forest? Maple? Hemlock? What else is around?
Finally, I can’t stress enough, be careful with wild mushrooms. There are some nasty ones, including some deadly ones out there. Invest in a good field guide. Don’t ever eat any mushrooms you are not 100% sure of please.