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Lobsters? Not yet.

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.

2 Comments

  1. I usually go outside GTA for my foraging, usually within a hour or so drive from Long Branch. I find Armillaria mellea, or honey mushrooms in most of the forests I go to, in late fall. I don’t have any good spots for Boletus edulis. The leccinum you refer to are often found near birch trees in our forests. I find them occasionally but not a lot of them. The mushrooms I find most are morels in spring, aspen oysters, chanterelles, ornate boletes, lobsters, hedgehogs, puffballs, and a few others. Good luck with your foraging.

  2. Jacqueline

    Hi, I like your blog. I have been a long time resident of New Toronto, so it goes without saying that I spend a lot of time in Sam Smith park. As I have a Russian background, I am an avid mushroom picker, and as such I was really impressed to learn that people have actually managed to pick oyster mushrooms in my favorite park, while I never happened upon one! At any rate, I would like to ask other mushroom pickers if they had any sightings of the following in the GTA

    Armillaria mellea (I am not sure of the common name in English, but in Russian it’s called опенок)
    Boletus edulis, sometimes referred to as the White Mushroom, arguably the best mushroom, period. Also known as боровик.
    Leccinum aurantiacum, also known as the Red Cap, second only to боровик. In Russian called подосиновик..

    Also, it would be very helpful if anyone reading this would care to share some of their mushroom picking experience in the GTA. I have scoured several mushroom sites in the Toronto area (all of them Russian, of course), and I heard some great things about the York region forest. But for something even closer to home, has anyone tried the Tommy THompson park in the Beaches area? Any sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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