Monday, August 4, 2008

Youthful Choices

On visits to New York one artist friend used to bring back mushrooms he found on the Taconic Parkway. The were mostly large or even giant puffballs, Calvatia gigante, shaggy manes, and inky caps. Chef Ted isn't fond of the later two, because they, "throw off too much water." This genus, Coprinus, disintegrates rapidly, also throwing off a black liquid substance actually used one time as ink. The puffballs should always be sliced down the center to be sure there is no apparent stem. If there is a stem, the specimen is not a puffball, and may be a deadly Amanita. Last year I found a multitude of the smaller gem-studded puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum, also known as devil's snuff box. The top eventually disintegrates from within and with any slight pressure bursts into a snuff of spores--devilish I suppose because it could be harmful to inhale the spores. Some folks find what is called a field mushroom, Agaricus arvensis and Agaricus campestris , often located, as puffballs are, on lawns or where cows once grazed. Young specimens have pink gills. I am not as familiar with them as I would like to be, so I stay away from eating them though I try and discern some characteristics each time, including fragrance. The next time I find some, I will bring them to my neighbor who is confident about these Agaricus campestris. As with most everything, youthful examples are choice.