Lobster mushroom…it sounds like some fantasy name although it is a real name and the mushrooms that the name belongs to are very real and very edible. Usually, from about August-October, each year, on the west coast as well as New England you can find these wild edibles growing. What are Lobster mushrooms? Actually, it isn’t a true mushroom. Lobsters are created from a parasite that infects its host and then turns the host into this wild wonder, called the Lobster mushroom. Usually, the mushroom that becomes infected is a nearby mushroom of the edible Russula family. Since I am not big on scientific names I will use common names that most people can relate to.
In my book, “Preparing for the collapse-Food Production Basics”, the last chapter is all about wild foraging for foods. I cover a wide range of mushrooms that are edible. “Food Production Basics” is one of the books in the series, “Preparing for the collapse”; which has become quite popular, given the shape of the world economy these days.
Now for the important details. There are no poison lookalikes close enough to what the Lobster looks like. If I had to name even one possibility, it would be far-fetched but the Jack-o-lantern would be the only slightly close resemblance. However, if it has gills under it and looks like a Lobster overall…it isn’t a Lobster and should not be touched. That is the best way to distinguish between lobsters and jack-o-lanterns. But believe me, it is a highly noticeable difference and very rare. So, with not really any poison look-alikes, the lobster is a great mushroom to forage for. Here in northern AZ, lobsters sell for $10 a pound to local family-owned restaurants. They are consumed in mass by locals, including myself and my female partner. They have a slight taste like lobster but gain their name from the dark, tough outer shell is the mushroom’s skin.
Now, what are the benefits of eating lobsters? Well, aside from the obvious fact that eating anything from the forest, from the natural land, from nature is invigorating and takes us back to our human roots…not to mention keeping your survival skills alive. Lobsters are a decent fiber food and do have some vitamins and minerals, including the right amount of copper which is great for making more red blood cells. So, what is the best way to eat these buggers? Well, to start with, never consume a wild mushroom raw. The possibility of having intestinal upset is greater then. Always cook the lobsters. They like to grow under pine needles and leaf layers, so look for the mounds to uncover them. They also grow in pine forests as well as under large Hemlocks. I like to clean them as well as I can, cutting them up and maybe soaking them a while in clean water. The lobster is quite hardy and will stand up to water soaking well.
Then I slice them into chunks, and cook them in a cast iron skillet with onions and garlic in good-tasting butter, none of that margarine junk, and then mix them in with my favorite recipes such as stir fry or soups and stews too. Actually, they are insanely good if you do this and then use them to make a homemade Beef stroganoff. They are great dried in the sun, ground into a fine powder to be used as a spice and also they do well in storage as long as they are dried well. I have made mushroom soup with them too and because they are so hardy, they don’t cook away like many of the other wild mushrooms. An important piece of information on harvesting these wild edibles; when you take them, cut off a small portion of the stem where it is dirtiest. Drop that part back into the mushroom’s growing spot and cover. This will ensure the mushroom grows there, again and again, each year.
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