Lobster mushrooms are not true mushrooms; they're parasites that grow on mushrooms and turn them a bright orange color. The host mushroom is virtually unidentifiable after the parasite matures. In spite of this scary symbiotic relationship, the lobster mushroom is perfectly edible and is enjoyed among mushroom lovers.
Lobster mushrooms are in season in the spring and early summer, but I got some last week at Far West Fungi here in San Francisco.
Cooks love lobster mushrooms because of their delicate seafood-like taste and their bright orange color. They're best used in baked dishes such as casseroles and risottos. They pair well with pasta, shellfish, and meat. They keep for a few days stored in a paper bag, and can be cleaned easily with a brush. Although they are orange on the outside, inside their flesh is a creamy white. The flesh has a dense texture.
Some recipes to try:
Lobster and Lobster Mushroom Risotto
Spaghetti alla Carbonara con Lobster Mushroom
Lobster Mushroom Soup
Mycological Society of San Francisco
Ingredient Spotlight: Porcini Mushrooms
Seasonal Spotlight: Pink Oyster Mushrooms
Useful Food Tool: Opinel Mushroom Knife
(Image: Kathryn Hill)