Look what I found walking along the trail in Mr. Neil’s woods…
Oh no, not another edible wild mushroom post! I just realized that as of this post that I have now eaten each of the “foolproof four”–edible wild mushrooms that cannot be mistaken for anything else in North America. Not only that, I have had all four from Mr. Neil’s yard, though I’ve had them from other places, this is the only yard I know of that has had all four at some point and time. I have eaten morels, sulphur shelf, hen of the woods, and now giant puffball–a first. This friendship is finally paying off.
One note: I have read about edible wild mushrooms and I have friends who are knowledgeable in the field of mycology who I can talk to about my finds. Do not try for wild mushrooms based solely on me. Read up on them, talk to your local wild mushroom club and when you personally feel comfortable, go out and find them. A great starter book is Start Mushrooming (by my buddy Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg). That book actually talks about the “safe six” but I’m not comfortable in my identification ability with shaggy mane and oyster mushrooms, so I currently stick with the “foolproof four”. Plus, I have some hesitation eating anything “shaggy”.
Okay, so in the grand scheme of giant puffballs, this isn’t the biggest that has ever been found, but I found it the morning Mr. Neil was leaving for a few weeks and he and I have both wanted to try puffball. We always manage to find them well past their edibility date. I decided to grab it and take it back to the house to freeze it so he could eat it when he gets back or maybe even get a bite before he hit the road for the airport. I checked Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America and found that you can either partially cook giant puffball and freeze it or just freeze it raw. I had enough, I thought I would thaw both cooked and raw slices.
I sliced it up and happily only found one millipede on the inside–there could have been much more. It had an overwhelming mushroomy smell. I can think of no other way to describe it, except that smelled like a bouquet of mushrooms.
The book warned to be careful cooking the puffball slices, as they can dry out and burn quickly. After I sauteed them a bit, I cut off a piece for Mr. Neil and a piece for myself. It was an interesting taste. It’s not a strong flavor at all–sulphur shelf and hen of the woods both have more personality in their flavor. The texture was surprising soft and wet, almost soggy–not nearly as firm as other wild fungus I’ve eaten. I think this will go well in an egg dish, maybe a summer pasta dish, or even a ratatouille. Unlike sulphur shelf, I would not eat this sauteed alone. It needs some other flavors to enhance it. However, I can see that if I were someone surviving off the land that puffball would be a hearty meal to be happily discovered.
So, after cooking and sampling, I wrapped each slice in wax paper to separate them and put the slices in freezer bags. I did the same with the raw slices (and took a few slices home for Non Birding Bill and myself–although, he’s not nearly as excited as I am over my new found bounty).