When Craving Lobsters, Try These Mushrooms With Similar Taste

Whether it be the hallucinogenic, the medicinal, or the gourmet, the fungus is among us. There is a mushroom out there for everything, from simply eating to reducing stress to battling cancer. In contrast to more common species like portobellos and oyster mushrooms, which are edible types, chanterelles and hedgehogs are regarded as delicacy. It seems like mushrooms can do anything, but what if we told you that there is a mushroom out there that could take the place of your lobster? 

It almost seems unbelievable, yet that's how mushrooms work their magic. The crimson, distorted fungi, also known as lobster mushrooms or Hypomyces lactifluorum in science, are unlike the adorable, speckled mushroom emoji on your phone. These mushrooms resemble a lobster claw since they have little to no stem, and their flavour and aroma match that appearance. 

So how did a mushroom end up looking like a lobster? All of that boils down to a parasitic fungus known as Hypomyces, which is named from the Greek term for "mushroom below" (via Specialty Produce). Forager Chef claims that the fungus prefers to favour locations where its preferred host mushrooms, russula, white, milkcap, and Lactarius mushrooms, flourish. When the fungus locates a host and starts to spread, it literally changes the chemical makeup of the mushroom, coating it in a vivid orange coating and bending it into gnarled, strange shapes. 

In addition to losing their stems and the gills beneath their caps in the process, mushrooms also undergo a complete change in taste and texture. Their flesh is white, thick, and sponge-like underneath their strong, vivid orange-red crowns. They emit a seafood-like fragrance when cut, which Forage Chef asserts is a result of their iodine concentration. The result is that a mushroom that would have been flavourless otherwise is transformed into a mildly nutty, earthy-tasting fungi, enhanced with a hint of shellfish and crab flavour. Due to this distinctive technique, lobster mushrooms only grow naturally and not in cultivated fields. 

Kitchen Use

Forager Chef advises keeping recipes straightforward while preparing meals with lobster mushrooms. As lobster mushrooms frequently have a vase-like form, they frequently serve as homes for a lot of things you don't want to eat, so you'll want to start by properly cleaning them. Start by clipping the ends and cleaning them with a dry brush to preserve their vibrant red/orange colour, according to Specialty Produce. After brushing, give your mushrooms a quick shake to remove any possible interior debris. After that, remove the centre and any soft areas. 

Caramelization is important once they've been cleaned and are ready to cook. According to A Sweet Alternative, you should not chop your mushrooms too thickly and should avoid using water to clean them (thus the dry brush). Because lobster mushrooms love fat, use a large skillet and add some butter or olive oil along with your chopped mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Then, continue to sauté the mushrooms until all of the liquid has gone and they are a lovely golden colour. Lastly, combine them with some garlic and herbs. The mushrooms can be eaten or added to stews, chowders, soups, pasta, and cream sauces. Be aware that, like turmeric, their colour will transfer to your food. In addition, they should be consumed within a few days, unless you choose to dry them and turn them into mushroom powder, which only enhances their flavour. However, not everyone enjoys eating lobster mushrooms. One, you have to be very careful to cook them within a week and eat them within a few days of cooking. 

In contrast to chanterelles, aged lobster mushrooms can make you quite ill and result in "mushroom poisoning." If they feel weighty and firm and don't have any purple colour, they are fine to eat. The iodine level of lobster mushrooms has been reported to cause sensitivities and moderate allergy symptoms, therefore anyone with shellfish and fish allergies should exercise caution. Be cautious and just consume little amounts of these to be safe.