This is your first lobster and when you crack open the head this green stuff pours out. Immediately you think something is wrong with the lobster and want to return it but then someone tells you that is one of the most delicious parts of the lobster. You wonder if they are right, that you should try it, or return the lobster for one that hopefully did not have that awful green goo. What that green stuff is called is tomalley and it is what they call ‘lobster paste.’ It is considered a delicacy and is edible.
What is that Green Stuff Inside a Lobster
As mentioned, it is called tomalley and serves as the lobster’s pancreas and liver. In New England, they consider it a delicacy and eat it along with the rest of their lobster. Many times chefs will use it in stocks and sauces along with the entire body of the lobster after the mean is taken out of the lobster. It is considered a specialized organ called the hepatopancreas. It is like what is sucked out of a shrimp or crawfish for the flavor. It helps with the production of digestive enzymes and the absorption of digested food.
Is it Safe to Eat?
The decision is still out on this question. Some say that eating it in moderation will not hurt you but there are others that feel different. There are some health concerns you need to take into consideration before you eat it. Since this green goo is acting like the lobster’s pancreas and liver, it is basically a filter. From the environment it is able to accumulate pollutants.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 warned consumers that they should avoid eating tomalley. The reason is that potentially it was contaminated with dangerous levels of toxins. These toxins could cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). This is a type of shellfish poisoning and is from the lobster eating algae that have retained the toxin. According to the FDA, even when there is a high level of PSP toxins in the tomalley, the meat itself is generally not affected so the meat is safe to eat.
The reason that they say it is safe to eat the lobster is that any toxins found in the digestive system, which tomalley is part of since it acts as the liver and pancreas, are not water soluble. This means that it cannot leach out into the water in which the lobster is boiled.
How to Eat Tomalley
When you see this, you can either scoop it out of the way or just scoop it up with a spoon and eat it, alone or with the lobster meat.
It has been deemed safe to eat the tomalley in lobster as long as it is done in moderation; no more than one or two servings spaced out over a long period of time. For some, eating the tomalley is the equivalent of sucking the head of a shrimp or crawfish. It is also a useful ingredient in foods that are lobster-based as it has a very concentrated lobster flavor. It is mixed into stuffing, compound butters, and sauces to help boost the lobster flavor.