(sorry for the rather bad photo… it was taken on a friend’s smartphone!)

Ever since moving to the Azores almost two years ago, I have been searching for wild edible mushrooms. All the locals I asked told me that there were only poisonous mushrooms here on this island, that there are no edible mushrooms here. This puzzled me. The Azores, in general, have high amounts of rainfall and humidity through most of the year, so I figured this place should be a mushroom hunter’s paradise. But time and again, the locals shot me down.

I felt that this was a classic case of fungiphobia. It seems that mushrooms are adored by the Spanish and Portuguese on the mainland, that is the Iberian Penninsula on the European continent, but other than button mushrooms and the occasional portabella, the Azoreans do not seem to be big fans of mushrooms. I am sure there are Azoreans who do love mushrooms, but I have not met them yet. My thought was that the locals believed there were no edible mushrooms on this island, because that is what their parents told them, and their parents learned this from their parents, and on and on.

I thought this climate would be perfect for mushrooms. I even “planted” some mushroom patches of my own. Unfortunately, with me moving in about 6 weeks, it seems that I will never see the fruits (or fruiting bodies, rather) of my labor. I am okay with that. I have turned over many gardens and fruit trees to unknown people who came after me with all my moves in the last decade. But I really thought I would be able to find some edible wild mushrooms here if I could get out there and hunt. Between naturally occuring species and/or accidentally introduced species, I figured that there would need to be at least one wild edible mushroom on this island.

Now, to be honest, I have not been out hunting mushrooms like a professional would. I am rather busy, probably way too busy, with so many other things, that hunting for edible mushrooms when everyone says they don’t exist was not a huge priority for me. However, every time I am outside, my eyes are constantly scanning. I look for insects and birds. I try to identify every plant I step over or pass by, and I look for mushrooms. In truth, I have seen quite a few mushrooms… tiny, frail, ephemeral mushrooms that are probably non-poisonous but not really “edible”. And I have not come across any mushroom larger than a dime. I will also add that the one other Permaculturist on the island which I live has recently told me about a gentleman who is growing edible mushrooms, but I have yet to visit his place.

But today, I have been vindicated!

As I was walking in to work this morning, I spotted a little, round, white ball in the grass. I stepped right over it and kept walking. It took two to three steps before my brain made the recognition… “I think that was a mushroom!”

I went back and took a knee in the grass to study it. It was just a bit smaller and oblong than a golfball. I plucked it from its anchor and took a deep smell of it, and a big smile crossed my face. It was a very small Puffball. I am pretty sure it is a very young Calvatia gigantea. So, here it is. I had found a wild, edible mushroom in the Azores!

In hindsight, I wish I would have left it there in the hopes it would continue growing large enough for a meal, but really wanted to make the correct identification. Some immature gilled mushrooms with their intact universal veil, a number of which are quite poisonous, can resemble a young Puffball. Identification of a small Puffball is quite important. It gets significantly easier as they mature, since some Puffballs can grow larger than a basketball. But I know where I found this one. Other Puffballs will hopefully pop up in the area.

I may have just enough time for some Puffball steaks before I leave… keeping my fingers crossed!

Here is a great page on cooking the Giant Puffball mushroom.


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