Monday, October 4, 2010

Autumn Mushrooms

The drought this year has been a real challenge for me as a mushroom enthusiast. Luckily, recent rains have kicked off the Fall mushroom season which is one of the best times for mushroom foraging.

Here are some giant puffballs I scored outside the house. These are very common in our area in September and October and this is a group of small and very fresh specimens. The mushroom on the right is, with a high degree of certainty, a Meadow Mushroom. It's a choice edible, but I won't be eating it.

After over 20 years of mushroom foraging I've refined a set of simple rules to keep me out of trouble with the fungi. First off, with only a couple exceptions I don't bother with gilled mushrooms. There are some great ones out there and I'm good about identification, but the last thing I need is a Black Swan event at this point in my life. This first rule greatly reduces the amount of information to remember, the amount of work involved, and omits the majority of deadly mushroom varieties -- which makes it much more practical to go from field to table. From there I focus on just a handful of varieties like Morels, Boletes, Chantarelles and Polypores like the Hen of the Woods. Aside from the False Morel, which is readily identified, this is a safe group that offers some great dining.

Each mushroom variety has a unique culinary profile. The puffball has a texture like tofu and a mild nutty taste. Once cleaned up they can be sliced with a sharp knife. They are brittle and tear easily, however. Only firm white insides should be used for eating.

I find that the best way to prepare them is to dip them in egg and cover them with bread crumbs and herbs. We've also tried a variety of spices like garam masala and barbecue rubs before which are also very yummy.

My son loves the puffballs and I had a hard time cooking them fast enough for him. I did manage to grab a couple slices for myself.


  1. They were surprisingly good. :)

  2. PS I followed the Black Swan link and I still have no idea what you are talking about there...

  3. OK, the Black Swan comment was a T.S. Elliot moment - i.e. a literary reference that few would follow. The idea is that a Black Swan event is a very rare, but very catastrophic incident, which definitely is not cool when it comes to mushrooms.