Winning Wednesdays: Foraging advice
This question about puffball mushrooms came in today from George:
I just finished reading “Puff Daddy” on P.129 of Summer 2011 Cottage Life. It didn’t answer the most important question of all “Are they edible?” I think they are, My father in law used to fry them up but now when I want to do that my son thinks I am trying to poison him and his children. I need to see the answer in black and white to convince him.
Liann Bobechko, who handles the Nature Scrapbook page in Cottage Life and has foraged for morels, responded:
Thanks for your letter asking about puffballs. Your son is right to hesitate.
Why the caution? Puffballs can resemble young Amanita mushrooms, some species of which are very poisonous. There are some good diagnostics for distinguishing between them, once you know to look for them. This website explains in more detail: http://americanmushrooms.com/edibles3.htm.
Even so, while some puffballs are edible, and are reported to be delicious, there are at least a dozen species of puffball in Ontario, and not all are are edible—and of the edible ones, some are said to be tastier than others. George Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario offers wise pickers this advice about puffballs: “Do not eat any fungus in this group unless it is labelled edible.” The book also contains an illustrated list on recommended edible fungi.
You’ll need to be confident that what you’re picking is something you can eat, so before you head into the woods get yourself a good field guide. In addition, you can sign up for one of the several mushroom ID walks with an expert in cottage country.
Going out into your back forty and finding your own delectable treat can be really gratifying. But you really need to do your homework before eating any mushrooms you harvest yourself.
I hope this helps,
Which wild treats do you forage for at your cottage? Blueberries count, but I’m especially curious to hear about less well-known wild foods. As it’s a Winning Wednesday, I’ll draw randomly form the comments that come in before the end of the day and send one of you a copy of Amy Jo Ehman’s Prairie Feast, a chronicle of her year of eating locally.