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Giant puffball mushroom

The giant puffball mushroom grows alone or in groups on the ground in pastures, meadows, grasslands, along roads and other open places.

We have an array of fall fungi in Nebraska perfect for your dinner plate.

The cool weather and rain deluges of autumn bring forth a flush of different wild mushrooms in various parts of Nebraska.

There are varieties of wild mushrooms that are poisonous, even deadly. If you choose to harvest and consume wild mushrooms, you will do so at your own risk.

Let’s examine my top three selections for wild fall mushrooms.

Chicken-of-the-woods or sulfur shelf: Admired for its looks and distinctive flavor, this colorful, shelf-like, reef-like mushroom grows primarily with overlapping, layered, fan-shaped clumps on the dead stumps and logs of hardwood trees in mature woodlands. It may appear on conifers, live trees and buried roots, too. The chicken-of-the-woods may appear reddish-orange, yellowish-orange or bright orange.

The flesh of this fungus tends to be soft, thick and quite moist. The older this fungus gets, the tougher it becomes and will require trimming off the outer edges of the cap and hard, woody areas before cooking.

The taste of chicken-of-the-woods is comparable to lemon chicken. It is best sautéed, baked or fried prior to lightly wiping it with a damp paper towel. Egg dishes enhance the succulent, rich flavor of chicken-of-the-woods.

Oyster mushroom: This is a delicious mushroom found in old-growth, open, leafy woods that mimics an oyster in shape. They grow in small, tight shelf-like groups on dying or dead hardwood trees. The oyster is not difficult to identify, with its gills running down the stalk.

The flesh of the oyster mushroom is white, meaty and firm. It has a slightly chewy texture and is soft with an aroma reminiscent of anise. Give the oyster mushrooms a quick rinse under cold water to remove dirt and other particles. When cooked, this mushroom possesses a mild, nutty, somewhat earthy flavor with that subtle hint of seafood.

Oyster mushrooms are outstanding when sautéed with onions and garlic to bring out its flavor. They also are added to soups, pastas, stews and meat entrees.

Giant puffball mushroom: The round, edible giant puffball is ivory in color, with no spots or streaks of yellow or brown. The puffball itself is the fruiting body of the fungus. It should be uniformly white inside and the flesh should be thick. There should be no sign of a cap or stem, only a root-like attachment at its base.

Giant puffballs commonly are found in open deciduous forests, meadows and pastures. It can emerge in loose clusters or on its own. The giant puffball can range in size from a baseball to a basketball.

It has a nice, delicate, nutty flavor and can be substituted in recipes for eggplant and makes for a great addition to soups. A preferred cooking method involves dipping long slices of the fruiting body in a wash/batter and then frying them in a small amount of olive oil.

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Greg Wagner is a public information officer in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Communications Division. Contact him at greg.wagner@nebraska.gov. Read his blog, In the Wild, at OutdoorNebraska.org.

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