Saturday, September 24, 2011

Treasure from the Field

Yesterday, we made a haul.  On the notion that the itty-bitty rain we got a couple of days ago, might have sparked a puffball flush, we took to the fields, eyes down instead of up....and made out like a couple of bandits.

This is only one of TEN puffballs, two about this size, the rest half that size or slightly bigger.
I know I covered puffballs last year, but for those new to puff-hunting, here's a quick photo essay on these delicacies...

Below is a shot of how they look, just picked from the field.  As to where to find them?  Virtually anywhere.  They really aren't picky.  I find, though, that most choose a field that has been recently grazed.  But that may simply be that they are easier to spot.  From Rex Trulove's blog post on how to find puffballs:

Puffballs are amazing. They range in size from smaller than a marble, to larger than a basketball. They grow from low altitudes to over 9,000 feet, in dry soil, wet soil, and both in hotter temperatures and cooler ones.

When the flesh is still firm, they have a great and succulent flavor, they can be found in most states, and according to a spokesman for the US Forest Service, all species known, found in the US, are edible (though they shouldn't be over ripe). Better still, when prepared, they don't shrink as much as the more commonly available button mushrooms, found in stores.

These mushrooms are not only one of the most recognizable mushrooms and one of the most wide spread, they also often have a long growing season, as long as conditions are right. Smaller ones are harder to find, but giant puffballs are hard to miss.

I have a few "haunts" where puffballs seem to return every year.  They "flush" just after a good rain.

Once home, I tend to them immediately.  No waiting around, because they are ripening fast and minutes count. THEY DO NOT STORE so don't plan on using them later.  They must be cooked and frozen right away.

So, first step is to brush off all dirt and grass using a soft-bristled brush and then peel the puffball completely, cutting off the anchor end with all the dirt on it.  Brushing the puffball clean is definitely to be preferred over washing. 

Flesh should be PRISTINE WHITE.  I have a little rhyme that gives eating guidelines:
If it's white
You can take a bite (once it's cooked--not very tasty raw)
If it's brown
Leave on the ground. 
Any hints of brown or even creamy yellow
Leave the puffball to mellow...

What is meant by this is the the outside AND inside should be pure white, no brown, not creamy yellow.  And not "wet."  If, when you cut the puffball open, you find a colored interior, put those puffballs back out in the field and let spores form from them to produce more puffballs.

The inside should be pure white-white. 

Curious, I set the "cleaned" produce on our outdoor scale, just to see what they weighed...

Wow!  What a reward for foraging!

And finally to the fire...saute in butter.

Brown lightly, then cool them, and freeze in small packets ready to top anything that needs mushrooms.  These are much sweeter than mushrooms. 
Bottom Line:  gourmet eating for free out here JOTOLR!
Remember:  all puffballs are edible so long as you keep only the ones with a pure white interior.  So, you're safe. 
Remember, too:  I covered this last year at this time, and I'm still here!

1 comment:

  1. Elora -- Glad to read that you are still here after eating puffballs last year. They do look like they would be tasty from your fry pan. I am almost leery of picking any mushroom but the puffball has a look of its own. Fun post -- barbara