Archive for 'puffball'

Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

WEN September2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!Last night we had the in-laws-to-be over for dinner and I set out two jars of jam to accompany the chicken, each made from a different species of wild-foraged gooseberries. One was red, mild, and sweet; the other deep purple, tart and tangy. In the fridge we have two more jars—one syrup and one sauce—each made from a different species of wild currants.

There are approximately 200 currants and gooseberries of the genus Ribes in the world, all native to the northern hemisphere, including 55 species in North America, about 15 of which are scattered across the Mountain West, Thomas Elpel explains in his new book, Foraging the Mountain West (2014). Not all have wonderful flavors, and some have sharp spines on the berries themselves, such that gloves are required to process them. But there are five species of currants and gooseberries that I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country.

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Golden currants along the Blue River, yum.

The September 2014 Notebook, just released, features my photo-illustrated excursion to collect, process, taste, and eat these berries, followed by a similar foray into edible wild mushrooms. Here are some details on this month’s contents:

  • Currants & Gooseberries – This story features five species of currants and gooseberries I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country—the spiny, red-berried mountain gooseberry (Ribes montigenum); the spiny, purple-berried whitestem gooseberry (Ribes inerme); the non-spiny wax currant (Ribes cereum); the non-spiny trailing black currant (Ribes laxiflorum), and the non-spiny golden currant (Ribes aureum). I hope you will find the pictures particularly helpful.
  • Coastal Black Gooseberry by T. Abe Lloyd – Then, for you West Coasters, there is a piece by wild-edibles blogger, teacher, and author T. Abe Lloyd, whom you might know as “Arcadian Abe,” on the coastal black gooseberry (Ribes divaricatum).
  • Ribes RecipesRibes recipes in this edition include Gooseberry Syrup and Gooseberry Sorbet, made by wild food writer Hank Shaw from spiky Sierra gooseberries (Ribes roezlii); and another of my dad’s famous marinades and glazes, this one made with wax currants.
  • Mushroom Foray – August was a good month for hunting mushrooms in the Colorado high country, and it looks like we’ll have some fun with fungi in September too, so I also included a mushroom foray in this edition. I undertook this most recent journey with my parents as houseguests, and it was interesting to see how they did in the field identifying and field dressing mushrooms, so they are an integral part of this piece, which aims to introduce new mushroom hunters in particular to four wild mushrooms. The photo essay is a major part of this story, which starts with a quick look at the many species of mushrooms lined up in my fridge and laid out to dry on nearly every surface of my apartment, before diving deep into short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes), Rocky Mountain porcini (Boletus edulis), large and small puffballs of the Calvatia and Lycoperdon groups, and brown-scaly hawk’s wings (Sarcodon imbricatus).
  • Porcini Recipe: The edition concludes with one of my favorite mushroom recipes—Porcini Roasted in Miso Garlic Butter by my favorite wild food cook, the blogger Butter of Hunger & Thirst. The recipe is rich and addictive, just like her writing.
placeit1 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

You can read the Wild Edible Notebook on your iPad/iPhone in Apple’s Newsstand, view a PDF on other devices, or print and fold the magazine into a cool booklet on 8.5×14 paper.

Read this issue by subscribing to the Wild Edible Notebook for $1.99/month

The Wild Edible Notebook is an always-photo-filled monthly magazine available in several formats including Apple’s Newsstand for iPad/iPhone; a screen reading PDF; a tall, skinny, “Android-friendly” PDF; and my favorite, the 8.5×14” PDF print-and-fold booklet. The subscription is $1.99/month through Apple for the Newsstand magazine; or $1.99/month here at the blog for access to all the PDF versions. When you subscribe to either, you get access to 5 or so back issues in addition to the current and future editions. Here’s how to do it:

  • Apple Newsstand magazine – Open the App Store on your iDevice; then search for Wild Edible Notebook. There are several free issues to read, and if you want, you can subscribe for full access to the most recent issue, along with five back issues, and the new ones that come out every month.
  • PDF downloads – Go to the Wild Edible Notebook tab at this website, scroll down, click “Subscribe,” and follow the steps to submit payment and create a username and password you can use to login to the Member Profile & Downloads page and start downloading wild edible content!
  • Free samples - Check out a few free issues by joining the email list (scroll to the very bottom of this page and type your name and email address). You will receive an email with a link to the free download area (check your spam box if you don’t receive the email), where you can get a couple of the past Notebooks for free. If, after you read the free Notebooks, you fall completely in love with them but cannot afford the subscription, I sometimes give offers via email for how to get a free subscription. If you do decide to support my project for $2/month, I send you many blessings and wild edible karma along with the subscription!

Stuffballs on the Menu

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Stuffed puffballs with onion & bread stuffing, tomato bits, and queso fresco.

This has been quite a season for puffballs—both large and small—in the Colorado high country. Though the season for giant puffballs is upon us, I wanted to first share a preparation we’ve been enjoying with small puffballs, which are still out there fruiting like crazy too. I like to call it “stuffballs.”

For the stuffballs I’ve been using puffballs of the genus Lycoperdon. Up here we have gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), which when young and fresh have what Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) describes as “conelike spines” covering the top that can be rubbed off. The puffballs are “almost spherical with a tapered base,” she writes, adding that they can be “abruptly tapered at the base.” In my experience the tapered bases can come together gradually, or seem like miniature fat stems. I often find L. perlatum growing deep in conifer forests, in soil on the forest floor.

We also have the related pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme, per Evenson), which are pear-shaped, as the name suggests—also roughly spherical with an elongated base. Michael Kuo at writes that L. pyriforme is a very recent synonym for Morganella pyriformis, and that the pear-shaped puffballs are one of the few puffballs that grow on wood (or lignin-rich soil, Arora, 1984). The mushroom’s surface starts out smooth, Evenson writes, developing coarse granules later so as to appear rough. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—September release!

September 2013 cover 800 288x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September release!September is well on its way, and with it I am happy to announce the release of another Wild Edible Notebook for your reading pleasure. The September 2013 edition is four pages longer than the last, making it the longest Wild Edible Notebook I’ve created to date.

This issue revisits the low-lying high country huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium, a topic I picked based on reader interest. Next is a journey into the wonderful world of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), followed by the story of an even more wonderful culinary journey undertaken in partnership with Chef Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin restaurant in Beaver Creek. This edition also includes a review of The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook Them (2010) by Virginia-based forager Katie Letcher Lyle. Mushroom recipes dominate the recipe section—a few by me, one from my dad, and a recipe for stewed chanterelles from Lyle. Last but not least is a huckleberry coloring page, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, please join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of this website. Thanks!

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

Last Night’s Wild Dinner

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“Honey, can you clean the kitchen? I made dinner.”

Kitchen experiments take time, a luxury I didn’t have this past month until yesterday. I forgot how good it feels to get on one of my kitchen tangents and go wild cookery crazy. Plus I had a plethora of wild plants in the fridge that needed using. So I tried a couple things, some successful, some less so. This is what we dined on last night:

Italian-style Puffball Casserole

I have to laugh when I think about how many of my successful meals are the results of mistakes, and my ongoing obstinacy in learning anything proper in the kitchen. The casserole was originally supposed to be puffball parmigiana, an idea I got from Butter that in my kitchen involves slicing and breading big puffballs (Calvatia, or oversized Lycoperdon, or both in this case) with egg and breadcrumbs, frying in oil, removing to a casserole dish, topping with tomato sauce and mozzarella and baking until the cheese melts.

But I didn’t have any eggs and I didn’t know what to use to stick the fresh breadcrumbs (made from leftover bread in the food processor, mixed with dried crumbles of the wild oregano Mondarda fistulosa) to the puffball slices. After several online searches I found “eggs, buttermilk, or other liquid” as potential breadcrumb-sticking agents. But I guess olive oil doesn’t count as a liquid because all the breadcrumbs fell off after I tossed the oil-coated and breaded slices in the cooking oil. I should have known. Read the rest of this entry

A Daily Diet of Puffballs and Leftover Bread

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Gem studded puffballs from the backyard.

Looking back to the puffball entry I wrote on August 13 last year, I can’t believe how long it’s taken for my backyard colony of gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) to emerge this season. Emerge they have, however (in early September, finally!), and with them a host of other puffballs as well.  

First there were the big puffballs I found on September 3 amidst the sagebrush in an open field on a hilltop in a dry aspen forest in Fairplay, Colorado. This after Gregg’s parents took me on a crazy off-roading adventure (which they didn’t think was all that crazy) consisting of a mile-long drive up a hilly mining road strewn alternately with rough talus and nasty ditches from the spring runoff to get to the trailhead. It’s true that I’m a wee bit squeamish about off-roading, but Gregg’s usually cautious parents seem to have a penchant for it ever since they emerged triumphant from an ill-advised tour in their Jeep Grand Cherokee over Mosquito Pass from Leadville to Fairplay a few years ago.   Read the rest of this entry

A Puffball at 12,000 Feet

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Puffball, halved to reveal white gleba but sterile base starting to go yellow-brown. Photo by Gregg Davis.

Not everyone is so enthralled by puffball mushrooms. Well, by the size, maybe—for accounts of huge Calvatia boonianas and their proud finders grace newspapers perhaps more than any other mushroom, says Vera Stucky Evenson in Mushrooms of Colorado (1997), a publication of the Denver Botanic Gardens. But the taste, some opine, is nothing to write home about. 

“I took one to dinner tonight, and one of my friends wasn’t impressed,” Butter wrote to me yesterday at 2:00 a.m. “Puffballs don’t have the strongest taste, but they are nice, and I really enjoy their texture.” Of course, she would—as would I, wild edible plants enthusiasts that we are. But to the distinguished palette? Are they worth the effort? 

Success with puffballs may lie in the preparation method, for while some mushrooms are so flavorful that they constitute a meal or side dish in and of themselves, other might be better suited to, say, a cream sauce—which is how Gregg and I inevitably eat our puffballs.  Read the rest of this entry

Mushroom Identification Guides

Certainly there are thousands of mushroom guides from which to choose, but I thought I’d start by giving an overview of my early impressions of the following guides, all of which I received for my birthday from family and friends after my discovery of a big puffball sparked this recent obsession with mushroom hunting. At present, my foraging grounds generally include forested and above-treeline locales in the Rocky Mountains near Fairplay, Colorado.

51NWGFEJAWL. SL160  Mushroom Identification Guides

Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains by Vera Stucky Evenson with the Denver Botanic Gardens (1997, left), an out-of-print guide that Gregg bought me from Boulder Book Store through Amazon. (Incidentally, Amazon was selling the book for $128 to $215 yesterday, but they’re down to $25 now, so get it while the gettin’s good!) The book is tall, skinny, and colorful, with a pretty matte finish and good picture identifications. I’ve used it along with the others for all of my recent identifications, and I find much useful information therein. My only critique is some inconsistency in listing common names (sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t), which became important to me after I attended a local mushroom hike and the leader relied heavily on common names.

Read the rest of this entry

Fall Foraging in the Colorado High Country

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Tart purple gooseberry on a spiny bush.

We had a great hike on Pennsylvania Mountain near our house in the Colorado high country yesterday afternoon. My intention was just to go for a short jaunt because we both have non-wild-edible-plants-related work to get done. So we headed up to one of our usual spots—an old mining road that starts where the county road ends. I brought pint containers just in case we found some late-fruiting currants—which we did, but not until the hike’s dénouement, like some sort of juicy pot of red gold at the end of the rainbow, because it was definitely a rainbow of a hike.

Starting out I was a little on edge because it occurred to me we should have worn orange on account of hunting season, but then we found a few currants hanging off bushes in the valley shade and my mood improved, even though we only found enough to whet our appetites for more.  Read the rest of this entry

Holy Puffballs, Batman!

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A puffball mushroom the size of my fist. Photo by Gregg Davis.

All this rain is making the mushrooms come out—a connection I never made before since I’m pretty much a beginner with edible fungi. So, when Gregg and I took a long, off trail hike above our house to an isolated beaver pond at 12,000 feet, crossing an above tree-line meadow to get there, I was beyond surprised to find three large puffball mushrooms the size of my fist growing there. 

Puffballs can grow to enormous sizes, so these were not necessarily all that big. According to, the Western Giant Puffball (Calvatia booniana), which is found in open fields at high elevations, can grow as large as a soccer ball. “Wildman” Steve Brill has a nice picture of a giant puffball at his website if you want to get a sense of their potential. Imagine eating one of those babies!  Read the rest of this entry