Quick Recipes and Easy

How to Test Puffball Mushrooms for Edibility

I was sure I’d found puffballs (Calvatia and Lycoperdon) on yesterday’s hike.

I followed my own rules for identification and edibility. Last night I matched features of the mushrooms with my field guides, notes and trusted sources. Finally, a couple of hours after dinner, I cooked and ate one small piece of what know is edible.

This morning, I ate two more tiny pieces and if I continue to feel fine, lunch will be a sautéed mushroom omelet.

Once again, I have “Wildman” Steve Brill to thank for personally encouraging me to apply my foraging skills to mushrooms – and for posting detailed information on his website.

In the field, I gathered small mushrooms growing out of buried, decaying logs. They were soft and when I broke them open their inner flesh remained white. That was enough to place them in paper bags and take them home. Once I got them out again, I matched their qualities and shapes with my field guides and “Wildman’s” website.

I knew the worst case scenario is that the poisonous look-alike would cause digestive distress, but not death. I also knew that they turn black inside a while after you break them open.

Once I was sure I had pear-shaped puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme), I looked for recipes. “Wildman” suggested simple preparation, because the mushroom’s flavor is delicate, despite the strong aroma.

Yesterday was one of those rare perfect weather days. With a storm coming, I took advantage of the time for a long hike. I saw a red-tail hawk, fresh coyote scat, nearly walked into a doe and her fawn, and even found a tiny chicken mushroom and a few wild summer greens.

The painted turtles were back on the log; recent rain has cleared the vegetation from the lake surface. I’ll get a small hike in today before the predicted tropical storm arrives.

If the weather forecasts are accurate – heavy rain followed by warm, sunny days – then conditions will be perfect for mushrooms to disseminate their spores. With any luck, I’ll be in the right place and the right time to continue my studies.

Writer and naturalist JJ Murphy has been eating wild foods since her farmer parents pulled weeds from the veggie garden and she ate the weeds. JJ continues to forage and write in Harriman, NY, posting recipes and resource information at WriterByNature.com WriterByNature.com

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