I’ve always been a fan of the fungi. When I was younger I loved the way they looked, with their whimsical shapes and kaleidoscope of colors. Unfortunately though, there was never much mycological activity at the horse farm I grew up on other than the occasional package of white or brown button mushrooms from the grocery store, or running over a fairy circle with the tractor while mowing the horse fields.
However, in the woods behind our little house on the hillside, there is an abundance of mushrooms to be found and foraged. Armed with the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms, I have discovered great joy in walking through our woods with a purpose.
This week’s foraging included pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon Pyriforme), which are charming little mushrooms that remind me of toasted marshmallows. Feather-light with a soft, springy interior that’s a bright, creamy white, these puffballs are edible and tasty, both raw and cooked.
For those who might go out and look for these little gems after reading this post, please make yourself aware that there are poisonous impostors known as pigskin poison puffballs, which can be easily distinguished with the help of a field guide. The critical element in identifying edible puffballs is cutting them half and confirming that the interior is a clean, solid white with no evidence of gills.
Inspired by the fantastic ideas of the Forager Chef, I sliced my newly-acquired puffballs and mixed them with some sliced portabella mushrooms from the fridge to round out a mushroom sauté that would accompany the day’s purchase of sweet country sausage. The next day we used them to boost a jar of store-bought pasta sauce. Both meals were a genuine success. If not for the rule of thumb that you should always leave behind more mushrooms than you take, I would snip off the whole swathe of puffballs and make soup.
Have you ever cooked with puffballs?