Saturday, 4 September 2010

Puffball Pride!

Look at what we found! The crowning glory of a great day's foraging which began this morning in a discombobulating fashion.

A few days ago while cruising the highways and byways of South Norfolk I spotted a derelict house with a massively overgrown garden, topped off with pear and apple trees leering menacingly over the road - eat your heart out Scooby Doo. We went back en famille today but only managed a disappointing half carrier bag of pears as the brambles and building rubble proved to be an effective barrier to our efforts. The apples were more respectable at a full carrier bag and we got a tub full of blackberries too. I had planned on sneaking around the back of the house to see if any goodies awaited our attentions there but it just wasn't safe with all kinds of sharp and pointy nasties hiding in the undergrowth. Plus the discarded underwear outside the kicked in front door spoke of nefarious activities I'd rather not get to close too .....

And then!

In the afternoon we decided to take a walk down a bridleway we haven't explored before, alert to new foraging opportunities as always. The fruit was a bit 'meh', crab apples, blackberries, sloes, so far so hedgerow, 'til Willow said "is that a football Mummy?" And there they were - 2 smooth white balls.

My heart leapt into my throat and I could barely breathe as I scrabbled up the bank of loose soil, oblivious to the nettle stings. I've never found a puffball before but it was unmistakable, smooth, white and round with an overwhelming sweet, mushroomy smell. It took application of only the slightest pressure to uproot them and they rolled down the hill (to the chagrin of the earwigs and woodlice) They were surprisingly heavy and shockingly big, the pair of them straining the oversized carrier bag we'd brought with us.

Back home we discovered their combined weight was 4kilos. We sliced open the smallest one first and were disappointed to find it had started to spoil already, luckily the biggest one was still chalky white and fine to eat. You can see the obvious different in the photo.

Naturally we had mushrooms for tea! 2 thick slices were to be used trencher style, I brushed them with olive oil and bbq'd them. A 3rd slice was diced and gently sauteed with leeks and courgettes from the allotment together with a sprinkle of chorizo and garlic. The mixture was served on top of the trenchers with a sprinkle of cheese. I was a bit concerned that the puffball might be nothing more than an oversized button mushroom but fortunately it's rich, woody, wild mushroom flavour did not disappoint.

The size of the thing is staggering, every time I walk past it I have to stop and shake my head. Guess that's mushrooms on toast all round for breakfast.

Healthy puffball.

Manky puffball.


  1. Snap, OH found three smaller ones today and brought them home. We had one between us done in butter and chives. This will be on the menu again. According to what have read today they tend to grow back from where you pick them as there is an underground tree network (well not a tree a root system). Can also dry them and then grind down once dry into mushroom powder for adding to sauces, casseroles,soups etc. I really liked.

    Take care


  2. We're hoping to find more. There were about 7 in total, the other 5 very old and yukky but we're going to keep an eye on the patch - once we've chomped our way through this monster!

  3. I have never even heard of let alone seen a puffball and I'm sure if I had I wouldn't have given it a second glance....but now I want to find and eat them...are they common?? Where would be the best sort of place to look??? I am so jealous!!

  4. They grow in pasture and woodland, so anywhere really. It's just a matter of luck. The good thing is that once they get this big they're so easy to identify. I'm not a mushroom expert by any means and this is the only variety I'd be confident in picking as there's nothing else like them.

  5. I have found one Calvatia only yesterday, but it was in the orchard and slightly damaged by a hit of a falling apple.
    Anyway, it was still white inside. Did you try to eat it as a "stake"? I slice it into "stakes", and prepare it like the Wiener (Wienna) stake (flour, eggs, bread crumbs) Fry it untill the crust turns brown. Excellent.

  6. I saw a recipe like you describe (Richard Mabey I think) but we didn't try it. I'm off to have another look at the puffball patch this afternoon so you never know - I may be able to try it later!