Forty-two pounds of edible fungus
In the wilderness a-growin’
Saved the settlers from starvation.
Helped the founding of this nation.
Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
Funny how I can still recite this chorus from Homer Price. I’ve forgotten the story now, but the chorus burrowed its way into long term memory. Actually I’m surprised that I haven’t reread the story to my kids. I believe I’ve ready every other Robert McCloskey book to them. One Morning in Maine is my favorite; Blueberries for Sal is theirs.
One subject for which I feel profound ignorance is mushroom identification. Walking in the woods this afternoon while checking the pigs, I found fungi with a wide assortment of colors and shapes in a variety of habitats. I’ll admit that I’m not as interested in gathering a large body of taxonomic information as much as I’d like to be able to safely identify edible fungus.
My mycological repertoire includes only one edible mushroom: the puffball. I believe that in some parts of the world there are inedible look-alikes, but around here the puffball is unique and impossible to confuse so it is a good rookie mushroom.
Gastronomically, the puffball is not a standout. It is fluffy and absorbent, with a definite mushroom odor but very little flavor. I’m not aware of any preparation that doesn’t involve first browning in oil. The puffball is something I eat because I like the idea of foraging my own mushrooms, not because it is great. It isn’t bad, it’s just not too exciting. Like tofu. No, I take that back. Better than tofu. Tofu is something you eat only if you have a grudge against meat.