What is a puffball mushroom?</h3 >
Puffball Mushrooms are a fungus that grows really well in East Tennessee, typically fruiting in mid to late October. I’ve see small versions of this mushroom all of my life, but I’ve never really seen or paid attention to the larger ones until my neighbor told me about them. He said you could batter-fry them and they taste like a really good freshwater fish.
Even though I’ve gone on guided foraging hikes for mushrooms, I’m not a real confident consumer of wild mushrooms. The consequences for eating a “bad” mushroom range from mild discomfort to death, so you need to be sure of what you have before you eat it.
Puffballs are only good when they are relatively young and are pure white in color when you slice them in half (vertically, from top to bottom). If they have the slightest amount of yellow or brown coloring, they are no good and will make you sick. If the mushroom has a silhouette of a toadstool, it’s not a puffball and should be discarded.
Here is an excellent article on the identification of puffball mushrooms that will sufficiently scare you into making sure you properly identify this and other mushrooms. If you’re still interested, here is another one and then one more for good measure.
My Puffball Find…</h3 >
Here are the six puffball mushrooms that Ifound in my yard. They range in size from the smallest (cue ball) to the largest (baseball). I found them growing around some junipers that I planted a couple of years ago. When I planted them, I added some compost into the dirt from the hole so there are four possible sources for these mushrooms (juniper dirt, compost, native soil, or somewhere else on Earth). They were a little heavier than I was expecting, but that just means there’s more to eat.
Sanity Check…</h3 >
Here’s a picture of one of the smaller puffballs. I cut this one in half and sent it via text to my neighbor to see if I had the right mushroom. He told me that I had a nice puffball and wished me luck.
Let the Cooking Begin…</h3 >
I cut one of the larger ones in half to see if it was still a clean white color, and suitable to cook up and eat. It looked really clean, with a uniform color all the way through, and no toadstool silhouette.
Basic Cooking…</h3 >
My cooking skills are pretty limited, but I can fry just about anything edible in butter and (to me at least) it’ll come out tasting pretty good, if not great… like adding bacon. Anyway, this is that cut-in-half mushroom from the previous picture, sitting in butter, in my frying pan.
Aaaah Success!</h3 >
This is what the mushroom looked like when I was overcome by the buttery goodness and golden brown color to the point where I was going to eat this thing. I offered some to my wife but she wisely declined, explaining to me that if my mushroom-spotting skills weren’t as good as I thought they were, someone would probably have to be in good enough shape to drive to the hospital. That made perfect sense to me, so I ate all of this mushroom myself and the only ill-effects were a couple of extra points on my “bad cholesterol” from the butter.
Puffballs (and some other mushrooms) contain calvacin, a protein that has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells like sarcoma and leukemia. I think that’s worth a few temporary points on the LDL/HDL reading.
UNFORTUNATELY, before we discovered that I wouldn’t need hospitalization and my wife wanted to try one, they had already started to yellow. Neither one of us wanted to risk eating a yellow puffball so I put them back out under the junipers in hopes that they would sprout more puffballs next year.