I almost walked right by this. Well, that’s not totally true. First I asked myself whether or not we could use another soccer ball. “Nah,” I thought, having just come from my daughter’s soccer game (soccer on the brain.) “She has one, we’re good.” I guess I even said out loud, “Do we want another soccer ball?” because Dave took one look and strode over for a better one. He had his suspicions. He found one last year that I walked right by after thinking it was a discarded plastic whiffle ball. Another after I had a mental diatribe against humanity for throwing their trash - in this case a white football helmet - in the woods.
For some reason my mind jumps to lost/discarded sporting equipment while Dave sees them for what they really are: delicious giant puffball mushrooms.
Sliced and sauteed, marinated and grilled, breaded and baked or fried, cubed like tofu or paneer cheese, this is a very versatile mushroom.
Puffball Parmesan comes to mind…as does a vegan palak “paneer” (an Indian dish made with spinach and cubes of cheese, in this case the cheese would be the puffball cut into cubes.)
Once cut open the inside should be white and marshmallow-like. Smaller puffballs must be cut open and inspected; if you can see the outline of a mushroom inside discard it immediately! Amanita mushroom “eggs” are sometimes misidentified as puffballs, and some of the most deadly mushrooms: the death cap and destroying angel, are amanitas which start out as round white “eggs.”
Once the giant puffball reaches 4 inches in diameter and beyond, you can be certain it is a giant puffball (but it still never hurts to check!)
Remember, if in doubt do not eat wild mushrooms. If you are in Western Pennsylvania the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club is a great resource with weekly walks and monthly meetings that are open to the public. If you’re not in western PA, check the North American Mycological Association for a club near you or more information.
Fall is a great time of year for wild mushrooms!
~ Melissa Sokulski