I interviewed graphic artist Bru Sim of Electrolychee design studio for Agriculture magazine on her adventures in lasagna gardening and her foray into foraging.
She talked about harvesting some puffballs in her garden, which she sent to a mycologist in the US to determine if it was edible before trying it herself.
“The mycologist ID’d the second mushroom as related to calvatia rubroflava,” Bru says in the interview. “Because the mycologist’s samples and photos are from the Americas, I spent many hours digging through other sites and scientific journals that would corroborate my puffball’s description. Eventually I found an experienced farmer who said they’ve encountered this in the Philippines. He says that it’s edible but he hasn’t tried it.”
I’ve always wanted to see a puffball in real life, ever since I learned about them from the Usborne Spotter’s Guide: Mushrooms and Fungi, one of my favorite books in grade school. Fungi multiply by releasing spores, and puffballs, like their namesake, do this rather dramatically: by exploding and releasing its spores in a puff. I’ve always wanted to see this in real life. Watching videos doesn’t cut it.
But this isn’t a post about watching a puffball explode. It’s about eating it.
A few weeks after the interview, Bru sent me some duhat from her garden, as well as some of the puffballs she had foraged (it’s all on her Instagram account).
In the interview, Bru says, “Experienced foragers call puffballs ‘breakfast mushrooms’ because they blend so well with eggs. That’s the first way we cooked it. When freshly harvested or frozen the puffball has a light almost indistinct flavor to it.”
Just in case it has to be said, don’t eat mushrooms you happen to find on the ground unless you’re REALLY sure they’re edible. Bru had to send a sample to a scientist in another country before taking a bite. That’s how careful she was before trying it. She was even more careful about sharing it with friends.
I was instructed to make sure that I didn’t have any allergic reaction before I could eat it without worry. As you’re reading this post, obviously, I survived.
I was told to taste a teeny tiny bit and wait for any bad reaction such itchiness, blotchiness, or stinging. I waited half an hour with no effects, ill or otherwise, so I followed Bru’s suggestion and included it in a scramble.
The puffballs smell very earthy when raw. When thrown into a pan with oil and garlic, the smell intensifies and turns into a mouth-watering scent. The foragers were right: cooked, the puffball was just a tad firmer than a soft scramble. Sisters on the texture scale, the slide from puffball to egg was almost imperceptible. Almost, but not quite; just enough to keep things interesting.
When I tried it raw for the allergy test, it was very neutral tasting (“It didn’t taste like anything!” I messaged Bru), but once cooked, it released an earthy flavor. You could say the earthiness of its smell was inversely proportional to its taste.
I had it the usual way I have my breakfast scramble: with buttered bread and black coffee. It was delicious. That said, I don’t recommend you try it at home.
I still have a few specimens in the freezer to chuck into a scramble the next time I’m feeling fancy. I’m grateful for friends with strange inclinations and who have no qualms about sharing them with others.