Mycobank Taxonomy: Fungi, Dikarya, Basidiomycota, Agaricomycotina, Agaricomycetes, Agaricales, Agaricaceae, Lycoperdon
In my opinion, unlike the giant puffball, Lycoperdon pyriforme is actually a good mushroom, even if the translation of its Latin binomial - pear-shaped wolf fart - doesn't suggest it. When young, it looks like a well-behaved toasted marshmallow with a uniform brown color on the outside and white flesh on the inside. As it matures, the entire inside is converted into spores, a tear forms on the top, and the mushroom, well, farts spores when it is impacted by raindrops, falling twigs, or other objects. L. pyriforme makes up for it’s relatively diminutive size and unfortunate Latin name by growing in large clusters on decaying hardwood and conifer stumps and logs, hence its common name: the stump puffball. Its pear-like shape, extensive white rhizomorphs, and growth on wood - a somewhat rare habit for puffballs - make this mushroom fairly unmistakeable.
As always, when harvesting puffballs, each one should be cut in half to make sure it is pure white on the inside. If it is any other color, it has matured and is no longer edible. While stump puffballs’ shape, color, and growth on wood make identification mistakes unlikely, by cutting the puffballs in half you can also look for the outline of a gilled mushroom, the presence of which indicates you actually have a potentially deadly Amanita contained within its universal veil. That is an important check when harvesting any puffball mushroom.
I think I might really like the stump puffball. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but it looks and has the texture of a roasted potatoes when quartered and pan fried. For this post, I ate the puffballs with late fall oysters, gomaae-style spinach, stir-fried broccolini with shallots, mirin, and chili oil, and twirly brown-rice pasta. A lot of interesting recipes exist on the internet that I am curious to explore, like eggy puffballs with sherry and soy sauce, "stuffballs", and Sichuan-style stir fry puffballs. Given that stump puffballs are easy to identify, abundant, versatile, and fruit for long periods throughout the mushroom season, they are an excellent addition to every mushroom hunter's repertoire.
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