Monday, February 14, 2011

Guest Post - Giant Puffball Mushrooms, by Mum the Moose Killer

Today in the News:  My mom is the guest writer today.  I'm very excited about this.  She is an endless stream of useful information when it comes to the outdoors.  She is an accomplished outdoor enthusiast and hunter, as well as a former trapper.  I used to see the giant puff ball mushrooms on my back lawn and I always thought she was a little soft in the head for enjoying the massive things.  Now, however, I have seen the error in my ways.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!  I just want to add that I chose her blog name.  She'll probably be horrified, but she is, in fact, a moose killer.

Link of the Day:  Links of the day will be found at the bottom of this post.

Guest Post - Giant Puff Ball Mushrooms, by Mum the Moose Killer

My Aunt B.J. and my father were the wild food connoisseurs in the family. They taught me a long time ago to look for wild foods and it has become a hobby for me especially since I like to try new things anyway.
       I wish they could have taught me more, but alas, between the three of us needing to work to earn our keep, we couldn't get together as often as we would have liked.
     One thing Auntie B.J. showed me though, was how to find Giant Puffballs to use in cooking as an economical mushroom substitute.      

     As you can see by the photos, some of them can be quite large!
     In Northern Maine, we have to wait until late Aug. to early Oct., when nights start cooling down but days are a pleasant temperature, for the cold rains to come and soak lawns, hills and low lying areas. We have a lot of land that has very rich soil as much of it was cleared and farmed almost forever.  Anyplace that is good and fertile with compost is a good place to start looking.
     All you have to do is keep your eyes open for the tell tale white mounds on lawns or sheltered shady areas which do not dry out quickly.
     Once you find one, you must make sure that it is solid and not soft. 
     Puff balls can be a staggering sight if you've never seen one before.  I have picked some that have been 2 1/2 feet high and nearly 4 feet around!
     The ones you need to find should  be of mainly one color, usually eggshell white. If it's a little yellow or greenish, then it is considered "gone by" and will become soft and mushy very fast.
     Puffballs are attached to the ground by a thin "thread" type of stalk or root which makes them easy to harvest. 
     Look your orb over for any dirt or discolorations and clean it with a damp cloth.  Try not to use excess water in cleaning your "shroom" as this will make it soggy and  harder preserve. 
     Once that is done, you can slice it like bread. I do recommend a serrated bread knife, as the cut will be much cleaner than with a non-serrated knife.
Once you have them sliced to your desired thickness, you can cube them to the desired size you want for when you need to use them.
I usually cut mine into one inch pieces about half to 3/4 of and inch thick.  Then, I lay them on an un-greased cookie sheet and preheat my oven to the lowest setting and allow them to dry for a couple hours.
They should not toast, although I can imagine toasted ones could find uses in soups and stews, but just drying them, either in an oven or dehydrator is fine.
Once they are done and cooled off, you can put them in canning jars with a small packet of desiccant to absorb any moisture that maybe left.  You do not want moisture to spoil your toiling, as your work will mildew making the whole thing useless to you.
     When they are dried, you may find that some will crumble and powder.  Don't throw them out!  I use my puffball powder to make Cream of Mushroom Soup.
     Another couple ways to save these is by pickling pieces in oil, or in vinegar.  I have had really good results by lightly blanching them in boiling water, then freezing them in freezer bags.
Now, you are ready to use them anytime in any recipe!  The moisture in your recipe will "reconstitute" dried puff pieces.
     My favorite way to have few at the beginning of the season is to saute'a slice or two in a cast iron fry pan while they are fresh, usually in butter or margarine with a little seasoning.  I like these about pancake size and can eat a couple as a whole meal!
     I have whipped up an egg mixture (get creative) and soaked the pieces, then rolled and covered the pieces in in a dried bread crumb mixture or batter and deep fried them in olive or vegetable oil.  They are delicious!  Much like the deep fried mushrooms you can get in any restaurant.
     I will try to grill some thicker pieces on my grill this coming year.  I have heard a few friends say that they get a vegetarian seasoning that actually makes them taste like beef, which makes me think of "steaks on the barbie"!
Here are a couple good sites I've found to check out more info should you be interested in trying these for yourself.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel......out.


  1. Great Article! I do have two questions though, is there any other type of mushroom that looks similar to this one that is poisonous and do they grow on the ground or on the material in the compost heap? I'm just wondering because I've heard the horror stories from picking wild mushrooms here in the south and a rule of thumb I was always taught is/was never ever eat one that is growing on soil.

    I hope we get to see more from you soon!
    Take Care and God Bless.

  2. Excellent! Though I have never seen any over here. But nature is a constant wonder to me so I kep my eyes open for anything new (or old for that matter!)
    Good post, thank you.

  3. I've seen a lot of things in my life, but that is awesome. Stuffed mushroom appetizers will always seem lacking to me now.

  4. TWT - I don't know. I emailed Mum and told her to chime in. I don't think it has any dopplegangers, but we better ask the pro.

    LeLoup - Living in the country that you do, it seems like you have a ton of wild foods. I'd love to try the grubs that they find in trees (I forget what they're called).

    Tyler - I may get Mum to send me some, dehydrated. If so, I call you. ;)

  5. Wandering Thinker....If you visit the Wisconsin botany college site, they can answer more about the giant puffball than I can. I believe the professor said there are no poisonous giant puffballs in the U.S. It's the small puff balls that are brownish and tough skinned you have to be careful about.
    There are many research sites on the web with info on them, possibly even recipes.
    Thankyou all for your questions and comments!

    Wild Woods Glory (AKA Mum the Moose Killer)

  6. Take all of the fun out of the moose killer name, whydon'tcha.

  7. Mum the Moose Killer (AKA Wild Woods Glory)February 18, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Now, Now dear child of mine! Who says I can't be both?

  8. Mum the Moose KillerFebruary 18, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Just a shout out to all you wild food interested readers.....My aunt B.J. swears by books written by Euell Gibbons and John McPhee.
    I'm sure you could find a few of these at libraries and some are very cheap online. They wrote most of their stuff in the 60s and 70s.

    Good luck hunting down wild (free) foods! hAVE A GREAT Day!