Originally I’m from the Chicagoland area, where the woods, rain, and snow are more than plentiful. The conditions in Illinois were perfect for puffballs. I know some of you are thinking it sounds like something that comes out of a fairy’s butt, but puffballs are actually an edible giant mushroom, often growing the size of a soccer ball. I’m sure you can imagine: Puffball hunting is like easter egg hunting for adults, only healthier.
Needless to say, I was missing my puffballs when I moved to the southwest. Imagine how excited I was to come across one of these beauties during a walk in the woods with a friend last weekend. I suspected I might get lucky when we came across a huge population of ferns (also edible), and sure enough, there I found a puffball.
Puffballs are usually smooth around the outside, however this one had lots of lumps and bumps, which is normal after there’s been a lot of rain. (Flagstaff had a heavy monsoon season this year.) I suspected this puffball was past its prime when I pulled it from the earth. The smell wasn’t quite right… but it had been so long I decided to take this little lover home anyway.
Once home, the moment of truth arrived. I anxiously took out my biggest knife and pierced the skin, only to find disappointment. When you cut open a puffball, it needs to be completely white throughout. ENTIRELY throughout – otherwise it is NOT safe to eat. Sadly, this puffball was far past the point of being good to eat. You win some and you lose some. Such is the life of a forager.
I bid you adeu fair puffball. Until we meet again.
WARNING: It’s easy to get confused between edible and poisonous mushrooms, so if you decide to forage for any wild mushroom, be sure to go with someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.