Friday, September 20th, 2013 at
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 MushroomExpert.com 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
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at
“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
Thursday, September 8th, 2011 at
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
Monday, July 25th, 2011 at
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
Sunday, October 10th, 2010 at
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.
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
Sunday, September 26th, 2010 at
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
Friday, August 13th, 2010 at
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 coloradomushrooms.com, 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