Lobster Insights

Unraveling the Mystery: What is the Green Stuff in a Lobster?

If you love eating lobster, you may have noticed a green paste inside its body cavity. This green stuff is called tomalley and it is a part of the lobster’s digestive system. It works like a liver and a pancreas combined, filtering out toxins and producing enzymes to help digest food12. Some people consider tomalley a delicacy and enjoy it with the rest of the lobster meat, while others find it unappetizing and scrape it off. So what is tomalley exactly and is it safe to eat? Let’s find out.

What Does Tomalley Taste Like?

Tomalley has a very strong and concentrated lobster flavor. It is richer and more intense than the meat, and some people describe it as nutty or earthy13. Tomalley can be eaten as it is, or mixed with other ingredients to make sauces, soups, stews, or spreads. For example, you can stir tomalley into lobster bisque or stew, or use it as a base for lobster pate1. Some people also like to spread tomalley on bread or crackers as a snack.

Is Tomalley Safe to Eat?

Tomalley is generally safe to eat in moderation, but there are some risks involved. Because tomalley filters out toxins from the lobster’s body, it can accumulate harmful substances such as heavy metals, pesticides, or bacteria45. These toxins are not water-soluble, so they are not removed when the lobster is cooked1.

One of the most dangerous toxins that can be found in tomalley is called paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). PSP is caused by an algae bloom known as red tide, which releases toxins that affect the nervous system of shellfish and humans who consume them13. Symptoms of PSP include tingling, numbness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, paralysis and death3.

The risk of PSP varies depending on the location and season of the lobster harvest. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to avoid eating tomalley from lobsters caught in New England waters because of unusually high levels of PSP toxins1. However, since then, no other warnings have been issued by the FDA. According to WebMD, lobster tomalley does not usually contain high levels of PSP toxins, and most cases of PSP are caused by eating other types of shellfish such as clams, oysters, mussels, or scallops3.

Therefore, if you want to eat tomalley, you should do so in moderation and be aware of the potential risks. You should also check for any local advisories or bans on shellfish consumption before buying or eating lobster3. If you are pregnant, nursing, allergic to shellfish, or have a compromised immune system, you should avoid eating tomalley altogether45.

How Does Tomalley Compare to Other Lobster Parts?

Tomalley is not the only edible part of a lobster besides the meat. There are also other parts that some people enjoy eating, such as the roe (eggs), the coral (ovaries), and the brain (head). Here is a table that compares these parts with tomalley in terms of appearance, taste, texture, and safety.

Part Appearance Taste Texture Safety
Tomalley Green paste Strong lobster flavor Creamy Generally safe in moderation; may contain toxins
Roe Black or red beads Mild fishy flavor Crunchy Generally safe; may contain toxins
Coral Bright red paste Sweet and briny flavor Smooth Generally safe; may contain toxins
Brain Grayish-green liquid Bitter and metallic flavor Watery Not recommended; may contain toxins

Conclusion

Tomalley is a part of the lobster’s digestive system that has a very rich and concentrated lobster flavor. Some people love it and some people hate it. Tomalley is generally safe to eat in moderation, but it can contain toxins that can cause health problems. Therefore, you should be careful when eating tomalley and check for any local advisories or bans on shellfish consumption. You should also avoid eating tomalley if you are pregnant, nursing, allergic to shellfish, or have a compromised immune system. Tomalley is not the only edible part of a lobster besides the meat. You can also try the roe, the coral, or the brain, but be aware of their appearance, taste, texture, and safety.