Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazing Nature: Lobster Mushroom

I am going to start a new series on some of the amazing stuff in nature. Nature is founded on the evolutionary principle of “find something that works and exploit the hell out of it.” The thing is, beyond this simple principle, there really are no rules. Thus, every organism out there is looking for a niche, a hole to fill, an angle to play. With billions of different species exploring this concept every day (whether they realize it or not), nature comes up with some seriously amazing stuff. I’ll start off with the lobster mushroom.

Most of us think of mushrooms in two categories: poisonous and edible. However, there are a large number of mushrooms that are neither. While eating them won’t kill you, they are either too tough and fibrous to eat or taste simply awful. Some of those are even nice and big and meaty and would make a great meal if you could stomach them. That’s where the lobster mushroom comes in. You see, the lobster mushroom isn’t actually a mushroom at all. It is a mold. When spores from the lobster mushroom mold land on a mushroom, typically of the Russula or Lactarius genera, they quickly colonize the mushroom, covering the exterior in a reddish coating, which is about the same color as the shell of a cooked lobster. This renders the original mushroom unidentifiable, but more importantly, turns an inedible mushroom into a choice edible.

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