This Week’s Woodland Grocery Specials
There are many different species of puffball, most of which are edible. First, you must be 100% certain that you have a puffball. Cut the mushroom in half to make sure that it is solid, with no patterns or lines. Second, when you cut it, the puffball must be white all the way through…no brown, grey, yellow, blue…just white. Third, the skin must be thin. If you can poke your fingernail into it, you can eat it. If the skin feels like a football, throw it back.
Partridgeberries are just starting to ripen. They have almost no flavor, tasting somewhat like a puff of air, making it next to impossible for someone to dislike them. But the bright red berries with their double dimples (made from the 2 flowers that fuse to make a single fruit) are very pretty. So you can impress even your pickiest friends and family members by using them to decorate salads, dips, and desserts. After all, who could resist a cupcake with a pretty little berry on top?
Spicebush is also ripening. Spicebush berries are an amazing seasoning. They are very aromatic, with a flavor in the same realm as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, wild ginger, and sasafrass. Add whole berries to pickles, teas, or spice bags. Dried, ground berries are a delicious flavoring in cakes, pies, and pastries.
Pale Chickens (Laetiporus cincinnatus) are peachy or pinkish on top with a creamy white pore surface. Chickens with bright orange tops and deep yellow margins and undersides are also known as Sulfur Shelves (L. sulphureus). Chickens are delicious and often very large. You should approach your first Chickens with caution, as they are known to cause vomiting in a small number of people. I have served this mushroom to a few hundred hundred people over the years, and 3 have had this reaction. Interestingly, all 3 individuals are able to enjoy one species of Chicken, but do not tolerate the other.
Rushes were extremely important in many cultures. They were used to thatch roofs, cover cold floors and muddy walkways, weave baskets and mats, and make rush lights. The easiest way to harvest rushes is to wade into them and get wet, so harvesting on a hot day can be refreshing and fun.