Monday, June 27, 2011

Amazing Nature: Lobster Mushrooms

Most people think of mushrooms in terms of “poisonous” and “edible.” There, is, however, a much larger third category that can best be called “inedible.” Inedible mushrooms are not poisonous, but still cannot be eaten because they are too small, too fragile, too tough, or just unpalatable. They just have no culinary value at all.

This is where the lobster mushroom comes in. It is not actually a mushroom at all. It is a parasitic mold. As an inedible mushroom (often members of the Lactarius or Russula family) reaches maturity, the red mold infects the mushroom. It takes over the mushroom’s functions and uses them for its own functions, covering the entire outside of the mushroom, turning it red like a lobster. Most interestingly, the process turns a normally inedible mushroom into a choice edible.

Photo courtesy Joe Mabel via Wikipedia licensed under a Gnu Free Documentation License.

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