Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fun Fungi

Its been a quite unusual August in the Kansas Outback for sure.  Record rainfall after over two years of sweltering drought has the prairie celebrating.  And some of the first to celebrate the welcome precipitation are the fungi.  All kinds of mushrooms are popping up in the grassland as well as woodland.  Most notable are the giant puffballs of the genus Calvatia.  Very noticeable by their large appearance, what you see is actually the fruiting body, the part that produces spores.  If you can find these fresh when they are pure white, they are very edible and quite good (an excellent recipe can be found below.)  

Clavatia species can be quite large, often appearing skull-like.  They are popping up all over with all the wet weather.
These giant puffballs can get even larger than this impressive one!

These giant puffballs prefer a shelterbelt to spew their spores.
Several species of mushrooms create "fairy rings."  These rings expand over years because of the underground parts of the mushroom moving from a central location to outward areas of new food sources.   Some can be quite large.  This is a fairly small one of only about 3 ft. diameter.

  The Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris, is a very common "room" during this current wet late summer.  These are also very edible and quite good but one should be very careful on identification.  The very poisonous Amanitas (Destroying Angel) can destroy your liver.  They also have the evident collar on the stem but have some very evident differences in the cap and gills.  

A close-up of this handsome specimen of Meadow Mushroom.

So what to do when mushrooms attack?  You EAT THEM.  Well, once you are sure of what you have, wild mushrooms are quite tasty.  Below, cooked up with an accompanying dish of garden vegetables, the Giant Puffballs can be sliced and fried in olive oil with garlic, onions and tomatoes.  Ummmmmmmmm, its soooooo gooooood!

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