Pick carefully

Some folks will say that if mushrooms together  “look similar to you” then it’s safe to pick indiscriminatley. STOP and look at each mushroom you pick individually. Here are some Jack O’Lanterns and Honeys side by side. These honeys have unusually thick stipes but they have rings, attached white gills and white flesh.

 

 

Puffballs

Around the first week of October the puffballs started showing up, which is why I posted the Puffball Parmesan recipe a few days ago. There are big ones and small ones. The large ones make great puffball parmesan, but don’t overlook the small ones.

This is the large one, a Clavatia species – probably Clavatia cyathifomis. You will usually find these in fields or roadsides in the Valley. As they grow, they tend to have a “base” of sterile tissue that looks like a pedestal. They begin with a whitish skin which will eventually starting turning brownish and develop a cracking appearance.This doesn’t mean that it is too mature however. If it’s very firm, then pick it and check the insides.

Puffballs mature from the base upward. So cut one in half, top to bottom. If the inside is pure white, the texture and color of angel food cake, then it is OK. Slice and trim these  if you so desire. If you see yellowish or brownish color developing, then discard. I ALWAYS err on the side of caution. You will notice the one to the left has a slight brownish streak beginning from the base.

If you’re in the woods rather than the fields, look for these little fellows. Lycoperdon pyriforme. They grow in clusters on decaying hardwood logs and occur in large numbers. Last week I picked hundreds off one log, and that added up to a gallon or more. I ALWAYS cut the bottom off to see if the inside is white. When cooking, saute, I slice each one cross wise to get disks of puffbal which cook evenly. Eat the skin and all.

Beware of pigskin puffballs, Scleroderma  (poisonous), which have a very thick skin and should not have a white interior. Tom Volk has a good discussion with pictures http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/aug98.html. You can also see the Giant Puffballs on his site. I have found a few here in the valley from time to time. No pedestal, round, thin white skin, and look like soccer balls from a distance.

Puffballs are easy to learn and a nice edible around the end of September and first part of October. Just remember, ALWAYS cut them open and examine prior to eating.

Puffball Parmesan

Aside

Puffballs are coming up, so here is one of my favorite recipes.

Puffball Parmesan
Arleen Raines Bessette –
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America by Fischer & Besstte

Preheat oven to 350o F.

2 tablespoons minced onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 16-ounce can Italian tomatoes
1 3-ounce can tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh basil
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup dry bread crumbs, seasoned with ½ teaspoon savory
4 tablespoons butter
6, ½-inch slices Giant Puffball or other large puffball
1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
6 slices mozzarella cheese

Sauté onion, pepper and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, sugar, and basil. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer gently 15 to 20 minutes. (Combine 1 cup Parmesan cheese with seasoned bread crumbs. Melt butter with remaining olive oil in large skillet. Dip puffball slices in beaten egg and milk. Dredge in bread crumb mixture, covering all sides. Fry in butter and oil mixture over medium heat until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel). Place browned puffball slices in single layer in oiled baking dish. Cover with mozzarella cheese slices, then with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350o F until cheese is melted and all is well heated.

  Serves 4 to 6.

 Note:

  • I have tried this with commercial sauce and it doesn’t work near as well. This is delicious.
  • I use the fresh balls of mozzarella and slice it myself.
  • The fried slices, as noted in parentheses freeze quite well
  • I fry two pans of puffballs and then change the oil/butter to keep from burning. Use medium heat to fry

Whitey Hitchcock