The fall mushrooms are coming in now, and there is a lot of good free food out in the woods. I stumbled upon this patch of puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme), and they are in their prime for eating. You’ll hardly see any “feet” on them, and inside they are pure white. Once they start to change color inside, they’ve begun creating internal spores and you can’t eat them. These puffballs were absolutely perfect!
|Lycoperdon pyriforme, a species of puffballs.|
The photo only shows one small part of what was available, as the puffballs were everywhere. They have a very delicious and earthy taste to them, and they are considered a choice edible. If you find a good patch of puffballs, go back to it each year because they’ll usually grow in or near the same spot again. Lycoperdon pyriforme grows out of dead wood, and there’s plenty of that in the forests of Maine.
This is a very abundant mushroom that grows just about everywhere. I won’t harvest these all right now, but I will take some over the next several days until they start to go. Once they start to go and develop their inner spores, you can take them and toss them into areas near your house so that they will grow there next year. It’s painless farming with barely any work involved, and it doesn’t cost you a penny.
There is a species of puffballs called giant puffballs (Calvatia gigantea). They are truly gigantic! They can easily grow to be the size of a basketball, and they grow very quickly. They also should be eaten when pure white all the way through. A giant puffball pretty much has to be eaten when picked. You can slice them and fry one side, then flip it and put pizza toppings on it while the other side is frying. They are delicious!
Puffballs are pretty safe mushrooms and are a good “beginner mushroom.” One caveat to keep in mind is if you cut a white puffball in half and see an image in it of what looks like a developing mushroom with a cap on it, immediately throw it out. You won’t make that mistake with these tiny puffballs I’ve got in this photo, but with some of the slightly larger varieties (which are also delicious), you’ll want to slice and check the cross-section. If you do see what looks to be like a small developing mushroom with a cap on it, DO NOT eat it. Amanita bisporigera, also known as the Destroying Angel, when very, very young looks like a white ball before it bursts through. The Destroying Angel will kill you.
(This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as culinary advice. If you are not intimately familiar with mushrooms, err on the side of caution and do not collect or eat them. This article is also not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any ailment. If you need medical advice, seek a physician.)