About a month ago I started running (which is one of the reasons I got slack and haven't blogged much lately) and the place I run is a park that has some really awesome trails. It's nice because there's hardly ever anyone there in the mornings, so often it's just me and some squirrels and the occasional deer. Because the trails go through the woods, I get to see a lot of neat stuff -- Buckeye trees, chipmunks yipping at me, an old blind groundhog waddling along and bumping into stuff. The best thing I've found so far is the puffball mushroom.
Now, the puffball mushroom can get big -- I've found some that were the size of my own head. However, they seem to have the best flavor when they're about the size of a softball - they're nice and tender and soft, and they cook up beautifully.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you find a puffball - first, make sure it's really a puffball mushroom. There's one that is similar which has slightly brainy-looking striations on it, and it's toxic as hell. If you're not sure that you've got a real puffball, cut it open down the middle. If there are brown lines or a distinct stalk inside it, get rid of it, because it ain't a puffball.
The second thing to remember is that puffballs tend to grow in the same place each year, and they often grow in clusters. If you've found several, just take one - leave the rest for the next person to come along.
Finally, remember that some parks do not permit you to remove things like this. Now, I would never ever tell anyone to do anything illegal, but I can tell you that a puffball the size of a softball fits perfectly inside a hooded sweatshirt and you can pretend it's your right boob. Just sayin'.
OK, so enough about that. What the heck do you DO with a puffball mushroom? Well, you eat it! They have a nice, earthy, woody flavor to them, and there are a couple of things you can do with them. For starters, you can slice them about an inch thick and toss them on a grill, like a steak. They're amazing.
Or you can saute them for lunch like I did:
Enjoy the hell out of it, because it's amazing.