There are few, or maybe even no mushrooms which are easier to identify than puffball mushrooms. It is the perfect species for the non-expert like myself. However, foraging for mushrooms always requires caution, and this is no exception. So here are a few tips on how to identify puffballs with impunity.
There are several types of puffballs, but I am describing here the calvatea gigantea so as not to create confusion and because that’s what I find around here and have experience with.
Where they grow: In meadows, fields and deciduous forests.
What they look like: Completely spherical and white when immature. They have no stems or gills, but are connected to the ground by narrow string-like roots. They are soft and like a spongy bread in texture.
When to pick them: Once mature, they are no longer edible. When too small, you could confuse them with other mushrooms. They should be grapefruit size or larger, but still be completely white inside and out.
What to watch for: Any yellowing, development of spores or a mushroom cap developing. Do not eat any of these.
Look-alikes: poisonous earthballs which are hard and have a blackish interior.
If you are lucky enough to have any of these fine specimens accessible to you, there are several ways you can prepare them. Sauteed, cooked in stews, soups or casseroles, and even added to breads or grain dishes. They have a delicious but mild earthy flavour. Be forewarned however that, if frying, they will absorb a lot of oil and become soggy, so it is best to fry quickly with just a little oil brushed on them.
I decided to fry some lightly. I sliced them, brushed them on both sides with a mixture of olive oil, salt, garlic and sumac, then browned them in a pan quickly on a high heat.
These are delicious on their own, as a side dish or added to a sandwich. However, I used them for a brunch dish as a crepe filling. I added them to fried onions, herbs and seasonings and enough plain yogurt (or sour cream) to make a sauce. If needed, add a little thickener such as cornstarch.
Fill the prepared crepes (any kind), fold, cover with grated cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Linked to Fiesta Friday #84