Order Agaricales, family Lycoperdaceae
FRUITING BODY PEAR-SHAPED, NARROWED BASE; SMALL SPINES
2-6 cm wide, 3-8 cm high; pear- or top-shaped, with narrowed, stalk-like base; base often wrinkled
Outer layer of skin with cone-shaped spines that leave scars; white to gray or brown
SPORE MASS inside mushroom white, then yellow, olive-brown, and finally powdery
Spores escape ("puff") through pore at top
ON GROUND, GRASS, OFTEN CLUSTERED
EDIBLE WHEN FIRM AND WHITE INSIDE
L. pyriforme -- no spines when young
Puffballs are versatile. Their flavor is delicate and the small size adds visual effect to egg, chicken, veal and fish dishes. Be sure to clean your specimens before cutting them. The interior is highly absorbent and will get quite soggy if you rinse after cutting. You are well advised to cut even small specimens in half. Make sure they are white like a cottonball throughout.
It is not always easy to find a lot of puffballs, but when you do, consider using them in a salad as a delicious and colorful way to start your meal. The edible flower petals and white puffballs are beautiful on a bed of mixed greens. Make the dressing at least six hours prior to serving.
Marigold and Puffball Salad
4 c puffballs, cleaned and halved
2 T vegetable oil
2 T fresh thyme leaves
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 c mixed strong greens (arugula, escarole, dandelion, mustard, etc.)
1/3 c sunflower seeds
2/3 c marigold petals (snip off the bitter base end)
In a large frying pan, quickly stir fry the puffballs in the hot vegetable oil. Remove them from the pan and set aside while you prepare the greens. Everything can be chilled in separate containers until ready to serve. Upon serving, arrange the greens on individual plates, top them with mushrooms, then garnish with sun seeds and marigold petals. Pass the dressing at the table.
2 t fresh lemon zest
1 lemon, juiced
1 t fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ c white wine vinegar
1/3 c mild olive oil
Place all ingredients in a bottle and refrigerate for at least six hours to give the herbs time to marry. Shake before pouring.
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