What You Should Know
Hypomyces lactifluorum are actually mushrooms infected with another type of fungus. The host mushroom, typically a Russula or Lactarius, is transformed by this infection into a tasty treat with bold red color. Mild tasting, with a nutty flavor, good grilled, in stir-fries or soups.
The surface of the Hypomyces lactifluorum becomes bright orange and the gills are reduced to low blunt ridges. At maturity, the minute, reddish-orange, flask-shaped fruiting structures of the hypomyces develop on the surface of the mushroom (use handlens). The flesh of the host usually remains white and brittle. H. luteovirens (= H. tulasneanus Plowright) is another parasite of russulas and lactariuses, typically developing over the gills as an olive-yellow to dark olive green mold, eventually producing sexual reproductive structures.
Other names: Lobster Mushroom.
Hypomyces lactifluorum Mushroom Identification
Parasitic on species of Russula and Lactarius. According to several authors (Phillips, 1991; Lincoff, 1992), only white species in these genera (like Russula brevipes or Lactarius piperatus) are attacked. Personal experience leads me to doubt this--but identifying the host is no easy task, and I have never put much effort into it. Growing alone or gregariously in woods; widely distributed and frequently encountered in many areas; summer and fall.
Irregular often resembling the shape of the mushroom it attacks. Russula and Lactarius can develop a concave cap and the lobster may look somewhat like that. It can seriously deform the shape though and be very irregular. There are often cracks on the surface. The caps often collect dirt as they come out of the ground and cleaning them can be difficult. If the cap is cracked and dirt has collected in the cracks, it can rapidly spoil. One should not despair as it can be put to other good uses such as dyeing.
Has a hard, orange covering; attacking the host rapidly and soon engulfing it entirely; the surface dotted with tiny pimples.
In the Midwest, the lobster season will start around mid-summer (late July) and can go through September, depending. In the Pacific Northwest, the season will go longer into the fall.
Colorless and difficult to collect.
Hypomyces lactifluorum Poisonous Spices
It has been postulated in some mushroom field guides that Hypomyces could attack a poisonous mushroom such as an amanita causing poisoning.
There does not seem to be a lot of actual evidence of this. People have eaten this one for hundreds of years with few known incidents. As always, if you have never eaten a particular type of mushroom, try a small amount first. This one can be very choice or not so good in my experience.
Often, older specimens can get rot spots from dirt sitting on the top or in crevices of the cap and start to smell bad.
Don't give up if you find one that is not great. You could break it or slice it up and distribute it in locations where Russulas and Lactarius grow and hope for the best.
Hypomyces lactifluorum How to Clean?
Lobster mushrooms can often be vase-shaped, serving as homes for small creatures, rainwater reservoirs, and all-around stuff you don’t need to eat. When picking, trim the dirty ends from the lobsters, brush them as clean as possible, and shake out detritus from the inside, then carve out the middle and any soft tissue using your knife—if it has a vase shape, this will make for much less time when it comes to cleaning them at home.
Hypomyces lactifluorum Cooking Notes
Like plenty of mushrooms, dried lobsters can become bitter when used in excess
Hands down the best thing to know are that lobster mushrooms love contact with heat and fat. Exposing them to heat and fat, fresh or dried, by a technique like the tried and true fresh mushroom duxelles, or a dried mushrooms duxelles can help curb any bitterness and deepen their flavor.
When exposed to fat and heat, lobster mushrooms and others like sulfur shelf have a saffron/tumeric effect-they turn things yellow. This is useful for making a beautiful risotto, or compound butter.
Since lobster mushrooms are mild tasting, try mixing them with other mushrooms when cooking for a little variety.
Simple preparations for these are best, like most mushrooms. Combining them with too many things can mean their flavor gets lost. Most of the time I just fry them up, toss them with some herbs and a little finely chopped garlic, and put them on top of things.
Recipe: Scrambled Eggs with Lobster Mushroom
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced onion
12 ounces large fresh or rehydrated lobster mushrooms, cleaned and diced 1/2 inch (about 2 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled, diced (1/2 inch) russet potato
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy (or whipping) cream (optional)
8 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped chives
How to cook
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-size (8-inch) heavy nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam.
Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and potato.
Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and tarragon. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the hash is well browned and the mushrooms are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Scrape the bits that stick to the pan back into the hash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cream, if using.
Press the hash into an even layer in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the underside of the hash is crisp, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs, chives, and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl until thoroughly blended. Spoon the hash out onto a serving plate and keep it warm. If using a cast-iron pan, wipe it out thoroughly.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet.
Pour in the eggs and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to the desired consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the eggs next to the hash. Serve immediately.
Note: A leftover baked russet potato works perfectly in this recipe. If starting from scratch, simmer a scrubbed potato (about 8 ounces) in salted water to cover until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain the potato and cool it completely before peeling and dicing. Simmering the potatos in the mushroom broth from rehydrating dried mushrooms can help infuse more mushroom flavor into the dish.
Recipe: Lobster Mushroom Soup
4 or 5 stalks of celery (diced)
3 onions, finely chopped
10 cups chicken stock
2 large lobster mushrooms, chopped into small pieces (about 1 cup when chopped up)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup parboiled, uncooked rice
1 tsp. turmeric powder
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste
How to cook
Put soup stock in a large pot and bring to a slow boil over medium to high heat. Once at a boil, add rice, reduce heat to low and simmer.
Meanwhile, sauté lobster mushrooms for 3 minutes in 1/4 cup melted butter. Add in the celery and continue to sauté another 3 minutes. Finally, add in the onions and sauté another 3 minutes.
Add to soup broth and stir.
Next, add the turmeric, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer 30 minutes.
Serve. If desired, add a dash of your favourite hot sauce.
Ingredient Tip: If you haven't enough lobster mushrooms then add more onions or celery. Also, if you like that added taste of butter in soup, then sauté the vegetables in 1/3 to 1/2 cup butter.
Recipe: Lobster Mushroom Pasta
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces lobster mushrooms, cleaned and cut into ½ inch chunks
1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
A couple splashes dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A handful of baby greens (I used a bagged mixture of baby power greens from Trader Joe’s)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano
¼ cup half & half, cream, or whole milk
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, linguini or any long, thin pasta
How to cook
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water, then cook pasta according to package directions. When done, reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and return it to pot. Cover and keep warm.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium high and add the wine. Stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has mostly cooked off.
Return heat on the pan to medium and add the second tablespoon of butter. Once it’s melted, add the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, but still bright green.
Add the mushroom mixture, cheese, and half & half to the warm pasta. Toss until combined. Add enough of the reserved pasta to make a sauce. Serve pasta in bowls. Makes 3-4 servings.
Recipe: Sautéed Lobster Mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lobster mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
Ground nutmeg, to taste
Salt and pepper
How to cook
In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Recipe: Asparagus and Lobster Mushroom Risotto
1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
½ cup finely-grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Lobster Mushrooms
1 pound fresh asparagus
Drizzle of olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
How to cook
Clean and process the asparagus. Snap the bottoms of the stalks to determine where the stalk is tender. Cut the remaining stalks at the point where the asparagus snaps. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and roughly chop.
Roughly chop the lobster mushrooms and place in 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan. Sauté until soft and tender. Approximately 3-5 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of Arborio rice and stir over medium heat to toast the grains. Add the stock, one cup at a time, stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.
Once the rice is soft and tender, approximately 15-20 minutes, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the parmesan cheese. Stir in the roasted asparagus and top with sautéed lobster mushrooms.
Recipe: Lobster Mushroom Roll
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