Puffballs

(Deb) Welcome back, folks, and as I have done various times, been a cooking expert or have played an expert on TV, let’s put it like that. I’m not really an expert in anything; I just play one on TV. (Frank) [laughs] (Deb) I love mushrooms and I had not experimented and I just mean in the culinary fashion, with mushrooms until I moved to Kansas and people ate morels. I don’t – we weren’t into that back home. Now I’ve gotten everybody back home in Virginia and North Carolina to have mushrooms. Once I tasted a morel, I thought, Well, there’s other stuff out there that’s edible, and lo and behold there is and one of them is the common Puffball. Again friends, don’t take my word for it. I’m not an expert on anything but I have read a lot and I have tried them and I love them and Puffballs, not after they are dried up, like Dr. Jake says, I threw them at cows and watch them just explode. No, before they throw them on the cows, if you slice into a Puffball, my daughter said it’s like the tofu of the mushroom family, it’s just this – it’s like white bread almost. It’s like eating silk, the texture is amazing. It’s like eating silk and they’ll take on the flavor of whatever you put it with like I put them in a little garlic and butter but they’ll just take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. The way you tell a real puffball as you slice it and make sure that there’s no stem forming because if there’s a stem forming, it’s something else, it’s going to be another kind of mushroom. Do your homework before you try mushrooms, but there is a lot of really cool – if you read up and go online and learn a lot of stuff, there’s a lot of really interesting edibles out there and puffballs are everywhere especially with all the rain we’ve had his summer. (Frank): The thing is, is you’re never too old to learn something. I had never heard of these until she just brought it up so this next story is going to be very interesting to me. Puffballs may very well be the favorite mushroom of childhood. What kid walking through the pasture hasn’t stomped the brittle brown ball to watch the smoke puff out in one big whoosh? If the kid is really lucky, there is an entire fairy ring of puffballs for the stomping pleasure. Or, as some of my friends recall, they threw them at cows. Fortunately, they are so light it is not likely the cows even noticed. Puffballs are a fungus, and one of the delicious, edible fungus among us before it is ripe. Once the flesh gets a tinge of yellow, best to leave it for stomping later. Puffballs range from marble sized to the Giant Puffball, which reportedly can get as large as a sheep! Slicing into the puffball is like looking at a piece of white bread, and a true puffball will not have a stem visible on the inside. If it does, it is not a puffball but a stage of another mushroom’s growth. The outer edge of the puffball, the skin, is rough and can appear white to brownish. While it is also edible, it bothers some folks’ digestive systems. It is easily peeled away. The puffball itself does not have very much flavor, but takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. While it is low on taste, it is high on texture and can only be likened to eating silk. They are commonly used in crepes and casseroles. As puffballs ripen, the outer skin becomes thin and brittle and the flesh dissolves into thousands of spores, hence the appearance of dark smoke when the puffball is crushed. As with any mushroom, exercise caution. While there are many edible mushrooms, most are non-edible and some are highly poisonous. Non-edibles are not really poisonous but often upset the stomach and can make you quite sick. Even edible mushrooms can cause upset stomach for people who are not accustomed to them, so when trying a new mushroom, best to do it in small quantities to make sure it sets well with you. Your local Extension office can provide information on which mushrooms, or fungi, are safe, and which ones you can find in your yard or pasture, or perhaps clinging to the tree stumps on the creek bank, and when they are in season. Happy Hunting!

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