Monday, September 6, 2010

and so it begins!

Last year, which I fondly refer to as The Year of No Tomatoes, was a bonanza mushroom year: chanterelles, black trumpets, honeys, blewitts, you name it. This year, The Year of Bountiful Berries, has been a wash on the mushroom front. Until last night, that is.

We went to Scott & Fred's for dinner, and over cocktails Scott mentioned he'd found clumps of mushrooms at the top of the driveway that he wanted to show me. From the way he described them I was pretty sure they were poisonous pigskin puffballs, just about the only mushroom I've been finding in this hot, dry summer. We walked up the hill, where to my delight we found something quite different.

I THOUGHT I knew what they were, but since THINKING is never enough when it comes to mushrooms, I took them home for proper i.d. Growing in gravel were clumps of gem-studded puffballs...lots of them. Here are a few key points to remember when picking puffballs.

1) Puffballs are only edible when they are totally white inside. Starting to turn dark? Throw it away. The spores are maturing and the puffball is too old to eat.

2) Slice open every puffball. The button stage of some Amanita mushrooms (a genus which is mostly very poisonous) can look much like a puffball on the outside. When sliced open, the outline of the mushroom-to-be is clearly visible inside.

This photo is from the website of the North American Mycological Association.

A puffball may show a slight differentiation of tissue between rounded top and tapered bottom, but there will be no outline of the classic cap and stem structure we think of as Toadstool. See the difference?

The best way to preserve puffballs (in case you find so many you can't eat them all right away) is to saute them in butter,

then freeze.

Since I promised Scott we'd share the bounty (it's only fair!), that's exactly what I did. After taste-testing a few in the scrambled eggs, of course.


At September 6, 2010 at 7:50 PM , Anonymous Zoe said...

Wow, this is a really informative post. This past week I spent way too much time trying to confirm a puffball find, reading and researching until I was pretty sure, but not 100%... And I prefer to be 110% when it comes to mystery mushrooms. Thanks for compiling the puffball essentials.

At September 7, 2010 at 2:25 AM , Blogger meemsnyc said...

I'm always scared of any wild growing mushrooms for fear of mis-diagnosing. Never had these before. Looks interesting.

At September 7, 2010 at 8:02 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Let's hope this really is just the beginning of a good mushroom season this fall. I'm going to check my puffball spot at Adelphi tomorrow. Congrats on the haul!

At September 7, 2010 at 10:58 AM , Blogger Mum said...

When I think that most of us only ever see the super-market variety, I am particularly jealous. What do you think you will find in Crete? If you ask for instructions, be sure you can translate; remember ohi doesn't mean o.k. Happy eating. Love, Mum

At September 7, 2010 at 1:06 PM , Anonymous Mark said...

Dag. Lucky you. Not a sign of rain here, so the mushrooms are waiting it out.

Delish! Enjoy! Remember that first puffball we picked here when you visited years ago now? Just butter and a dash of fresh thyme. Mmm.

At September 12, 2010 at 10:33 AM , Anonymous wiseacre said...

I was thinking of you when I found that chicken of the woods.

I'm going mushroom hunting today, hopefully after the recent rains I'll be able to do a happy dance.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home