I had forgotten all about puffballs, a fungus found growing in our meadows on the farm. The puffballs were nearly the size of a soccer ball and are white. When they matured and dried out, the puffball would explode in a cloud of brown spores when kicked. Yes, I was a frequent puffball kicker :-)
We never ate them that I can recall. I visited may parents this past Fall and was shocked when my cousin brought over 2 large puffballs for us to eat (see pic above: mom said these were kind of small). My mother admitted that they had been eating them and that my grandparents used to cook them when she was young. I was intrigued yet somewhat concerned I would end up on the local news, “local man visits from California and dies from eating poisonous mushrooms”.
The puffball looks and smells like a normal white mushroom you find at the grocery store. The difference is that the puffball is literally a ball, no cap or stem. When sliced, the entire puffball is a spongey mushroom texture. My mother sliced the puffballs into 1/2″ slices then soaked for a few minutes in salted water. Neither of us really understood the soaking step, but mom said “that’s what my mother always used to do.” So, we soaked them.
After soaking, we patted them dry. You need to be careful at this step as the puffballs are more tender than a mushroom. Mom heated a pan and plenty of melted butter, then added the slices and fried until brown. I couldn’t believe how good they tasted — a strong mushroom flavor and tender texture. It left me wondering why puffballs are not more widely known about … to be honest, aside from the farm … I don’t know of anyone who’s ever seen one.
Hmmm, wouldn’t these make a good Iron Chef ingredient? Maybe I should return to the farm and harvest more puffballs, open up a puffball distribution plant and get the word out.
Before eating any puffballs though, *please* check with a local fungi expert to make sure the puffballs are edible. The ones on our family farm happen to be ;-)
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