Wednesday, September 16, 2009

puffball mushrooms for supper

When I'm on Brangus Lane, there's so much free food that I don't really have to shop if I don't want to. I grow a lot of food, people give me food, and there's food to forage. But in Houston, I buy almost all our food, and it's expensive. I eat about three pounds of fruits and vegetables a day, and it's hard to find much for under $2/lb. So that means it costs about $6/day for fruits and vegetables, and sometimes more.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge crop of mushrooms in my neighborhood this week. They came up everywhere, in lawns and garden beds and along the bayou, encouraged by the rain we had last week.

This morning there were several nice puffballs in the front yard. Puffballs are among the best of the edible wild mushrooms: they are easily identified; there aren't any poisonous ones; and they taste good. But you do have to slice them in two to make sure it's not an amanita mushroom in the button stage, which you see below.

I sliced mine open and discovered that they were puffballs through and through:

The puffballs I found are probably pear-shaped puffballs, or Lycoperdon pyriforme. I am going to cook them tonight. One website said that they were even good baked into sourdough bread!

I remember the first time I found a puffball. It was summer in the mid-1960s, and my father was taking me and my brother and sister on a hiking trip in Pisgah National Forest. We hiked up to Looking Glass Rock. On the way up there, we found about a dozen different mushroom species in the woods. Maybe it had rained a lot to bring all these mushrooms out. We put them in a plastic bag and took them back to Saluda with us. My grandparents had a huge collection of National Geographic magazines, and I found one with an article about mushrooms. I set about trying to identify all the mushrooms we had found. The most fascinating was the puffball, the way it poofed out its spores through a little hole when you squeezed it.

I left one in the yard untouched, hoping it would mature and spread its spores around the yard so I will be able to eat more puffballs in the future.

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