While out and about last Friday, I saw this peeking out of the tall grass under a big tree over by Farm and Fleet. I suspected it was a giant puffball. I had seen several from afar and lots on-line, but never gotten up and personal with one, so of course I trudged across the field and picked it. Here it is in the trunk of the car.
As I approached it in the field, I thought I had been mistaken. This is the top and it looked like a giant blog of that liquid insulation stuff...we were by Farm and Fleet, a giant hardware and farming equipment store,after all.
But the minute I touched it (and smelled it) I knew it was the real deal. It grows on the ground so it took me a few minutes to evict the myriad of creepy-crawlies that lived on the mushroom's underside.
I brought it home and set it on our patio table, It was significantly larger than a basketball, and a solid, fleshy 5.7#! I knew that the scuttlebutt on my Nature group on-line has said that they were edible but I wasn't that crazy so I went on the group site and advertised it-first come first serve. There were two folks interested but they were way Up North and I wasn't willing to drive up there or even meet them half way, so that was out. They sent me recipes and encouraged me to try it but with my luck, uh-uh.
I showed it to Neighbor Mike, who was standing in his yard with the rest of the neighborhood guys. They gather there after work to shoot the breeze and most cool evenings find them all out there in their lawn chairs around the fire pit. They were all enthused, passing it from person to person and prodding at it like a bunch of monkeys with a coconut. They badgered Mike to fire up the grill and test it out. I told them that I was only 97.4 percent sure they wouldn't die, so before they set out, they should find a more qualified person to go over their plans with. They scattered. One went for the phone to call his sister ('She'll know what to do!), while others went for matches and knives, When I left to go to knitting, they had an enormous slice of it on the grill and were all poking it with sticks.
Driving down the street after Knit Night I tried to prepare myself for the ambulance traffic that was sure to surround Mike's house when I got home; sure that I'd killed them all by gifting them a giant poisonous mushroom, but all was quiet, This was a good and a bad sign. Most other nights when I come home, they are around the fire pit. Tonight, Mike's house was dark and deserted. But at least there was no Emergency Personnel. Hmmm.
The next morning, I was walking Ben and intended to ask Mike, who is ALWAYS in his yard on Saturday morning tinkering on his truck or what not, how the mushroom was, but the house was closed up tight. Nary a sign of him or any of his friends. Uh oh. The next several hours were tense and I cased the neighborhood, looking for any signs of life. Finally, I saw Mike in his yard! I think he was a little surprised when I rushed up to him and yelled, 'YOU'RE ALIVE!'
He said that they had tried it, but it was pretty anticlimactic. The boys tucked in with gusto but it didn't taste like mushroom or anything else really. Kind of rubbery and bland, like tofu. So they didn't eat that much of it. But they had fun taking pictures of it, poking, prodding and cutting it up, so there was that. And, of course, the adrenaline rush that comes with surviving eating something you're pretty certain will kill you. (Not to mention the adrenaline rush that comes with being fairly certain that you killed half the men in the neighborhood and you can't be sure that it could be ruled 'accidental' since you foisted it on them and then told them it was probably edible.)
So several things were learned. Giant puffballs, while non-poisonous and technically 'edible' are not all that yummy. They ARE wicked fun to find and to have around for a conversation piece. And last but not least Farm and Fleet really does have EVERYTHING!