Tag Archives: puffballs

A fabulous find

A giant puffball, deep in the woods, ripe for picking.

When leafing through field guides to edible wild mushrooms, I have always stopped to stare a moment at the pages devoted to the giant puffball.  Easy to identify, and extravagantly sized, I’ve always wanted to find one.

I did find a small, grapefruit sized specimen last year.  And it was delicious.  In fact, I’ve concluded that the puffball is close to perfect – easy to find, identify and clean, and delicious to eat.

This last weekend, my friends Christy and Mark arrived on my doorstep, with an absolutely monstrous puffball in tow, and a smaller specimen as well.  Sadly, the larger specimen was just a couple days too old to eat- spores had started to form within.  The smaller mushroom, however, was fresh and lovely.

Puffballs, courtesy of my friends Christy and Mark. Yes, those are full-size bananas.

Excited by their finds, I marched out into the woods early the next morning.  Tramping around, I saw little evidence of fungal growth of any type.  It’s been dry, but I pressed on.

Entering my least favorite part of the woods, a hilly spot riddled with downed trees and lots of prickly undergrowth, my pace slowed as I picked my way carefully through, around, under and over the fallen trees and branches.

And then I saw it.

There, glowing eerily from the forest floor was an immense, white, alien orb.  A smaller one sat nearby.  Praying under my breath that it was still fresh and sound I made my way over to the immense puffball.  Its surface was smooth and sound, and I had to give it a sharp tug and twist to release it from the ground. It was heavy and firm.  Good signs, for sure.

Yes. The puffball was about twice the size of my noggin.

Before carrying it off, I took a very cheesy and terrifically unflattering self portrait, with puffball.  Then I slid it into a nylon bag, and cradling it gently, started to pick my way out of the wood, gingerly carrying my prize in front of me.

I finally made it out of the woods, and ventured home, drawing some strange looks from passing motorists as I made my way back up the road to my house.   Once home, I reverently laid my treasure on a cutting board, and took a few more pictures, just to document my good fortune.

My monster mushroom, with a can of tomatoes for scale.

Holding my breath, I sliced into the puffball.  Would it be snowy white inside? Unspoiled and ready to eat?  Or would it have started to age, sprouting spores, and rendering it inedible?

Using a sharp serrated knife, I gently cut the mushroom in half.  It was snowy white! Perfect!

I invited Christy and Mark to dinner to celebrate, and made puffball strudel and  puffball & sausage penne.  Both were delicious, and the recipes will be posted soon.   The remaining puffball was sliced and turned into puffball parmesan, and the last bits will be used in another batch of penne this weekend.  Finding monster puffballs does result in a total embarrassment of riches, but I’m up to the challenge.

An interesting foray

I'm still not sure of these, and I threw them out last night.

It’s been a while since I updated, chiefly because I’ve not been out too much, and my recent forays have been fruitless.  I was disappointed to have come up entirely blank in terms of chanterelles, though, admittedly, I didn’t get out in late June, and may have missed my best opportunities.  However, a bumper crop of mosquitoes was very de-motivating.

I sallied forth yesterday, with some interesting – albeit inedible – results.  Today is another beautiful day, and I plan to visit some spots in southern Wisconsin to see what I can see.

Yesterday I went through the wood near my home.  It’s a varied wood – a scrubby boarder of elm, cherry and a lot of junk (buckthorn, boo) ringing more mature growths of conifers and oaks.  In the conifer grove I spotted a bunch of russet-topped, yellowy-gold mushrooms growning from dead wood.  They had off-set stems, and grew in clusters.  But they weren’t chanterelles. Oysters, maybe?

The mystery mushrooms.

The mystery mushrooms were plentiful, and smelled really good – rich and mushroomy, not at all foul or unpleasant.  They were meaty, fresh and substantial. I stuck a few in the bag to take home to ID.

You'll forgive me for first thinking these were oysters.

The spore print was clear and vivid.

I tried to ID these, and I believe it’s a Velvet Footed Pax.  There appears to be some debate over whether the genus is Paxillus or Tapinella, but all guides I consulted agreed on the species: atrotomentosa.  The spore print was golden yellow, turning brownish when I left the cap on the paper for hours.   And the fat, brown, fuzzy stem on larger specimens was distinctive.   It was pretty clear I had a big batch of inedible mushrooms!  Into the trash they went.

While in the woods, I also decided to try to find the spot where I had found some very expired but at one point ginormous-puffballs-of-some-stripe very early this spring.  I bumbled around and eventually hit the jackpot.  These monsters were enormous – the size of good size watermelons!

Immense, and aged, puffballs. I am not sure of the species.

This was a good sized cluster, and they were aged.  However, I couldn’t resist cutting into one, using a sharp broken stick. It appears that the insides were once white.  Were these giant (delicious, edible) puffballs?  I don’t know.  But I will be checking this spot earlier next year.

Another cluster of big puffballs, species TBD.