Of all of my outdoor skills foraging is probably my weakest. If you have ever thought you knew a lot about foraging take a group of people out into the woods and you will quickly be reminded about how little you actually know. When I walk through the woods I am looking for certain mushrooms. Mushrooms I can say with 100% certainty are safe to eat. A lot of the time I don't even pay attention to other mushrooms because I don't know what they are. But when you are taking a group of people out into the woods with you they ask about every mushroom. I had read somewhere that there are around 3 million different kinds of mushrooms in the world. Even if it were my full time job I don't know if I could memorize that many mushrooms.
Being asked to identify mushrooms is very humbling. Fortunately I carry a couple of mushroom guides with me to help with this dilemma. Mushrooms of the Midwest by Therese Marone and Kathy Yerich
is my favorite. What I love about this book is that is was written by two women from Minnesota and designed to help people in this area. I have a number of other books that are full of great information but not all of it pertains to me. Finding a good regional guide for mushrooms is a must and will be the most helpful tool you can find.
One of my favorite mushrooms to go get is the Giant Puffball Mushroom. They are easily Identified and are a very easy mushroom to cook with. I will warn you that they are not the most flavorful mushroom and the bigger they get it seems the less flavor they have. When I find them I like to keep the mushrooms that are about the size of a softball or slightly bigger. When they get to big they change colors on the inside to a gross looking green or brown. They also get buggy and when you cut them open they can be full of worms and sow bugs and centipedes.
Puffballs should be cooked before eating them and you can cook them in many different ways. Hank Shaw recommends that you use them like you would tofu as they have a very similar texture. I like to dehydrate them and then pulverize the dried mushrooms into a powder so I can add the mushroom powder to soups or pastas or risotto. This recipe is actually a recipe for tofu that I substituted the puffball in for.
Crispy Baked Puffball with Soy, honey, Ginger Sauce
1 softball sized puffball Mushroom
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soysauce
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
Chili sauce and green onions to garnish
Cut the mushroom into 1 inch cubes and toss with cornstarch to coat the squares. Bake the mushrooms in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees flipping them over once about half way through. When you have about 5 minutes remaining add the honey, soy, ginger and garlic to a small sauce pan and heat until combined when the mushrooms are done place them in a bowl and pour the sauce over the mushrooms. Toss to coat and serve with Sriracha or any other chili sauce and green onion.