Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rehearsing with Giant Puffballs

This post's image will be featured on cloth bags and t-shirts that we'll give away as 'thank you' gifts for our upcoming Kickstarter fundraiser. Stay tuned!

We were in Prospect Park yesterday for a rehearsal--co-director Julia Halperin, co-lead Tiffany Esteb, and myself. We played a game of cribbage (which figures into the narrative) and set out to check some spots in the park where I've seen Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) in past years.

It's still way too dry around NY--the precipitation predicted with Hurricane Earl missed us entirely. So I wasn't too optimistic.

We wandered a bit, checking my spots for other wetter-season mushrooms along the way. Everything was dry and dead. But I had heard reports over the Labor Day weekend of puffball discoveries up in the Palisades and had even spotted a patch alongside a busy NJ highway on Saturday afternoon (never pick puffballs near a roadside--they accumulate lead from exhaust fumes of days gone by).

When we finally got near my sacred puffball grounds, my greatest fears were confirmed. A giant puffball alongside the trail...turned to fluffy white shrapnel by someone's foot. Now, I can understand the temptation--giant puffballs are about the size of a soccer ball. To a kid, it might seem the natural thing to do. But to a mycophile, mushroom kickers are not cool.

I stood there among the fungal carnage, staring down into the shreds and chunks of perfectly white, homogeneous flesh that would have been so nice fried up in crispy Panko cutlets. Then Julia let out a little gasp. A few feet away, just on the other side of a low wire fence, was another perfect puffball--bigger than my head.

We hunted down the trail further, and found another three large and lovely GP specimens to overfill our baskets. Plus a log with about 2 lbs of absolutely fresh and perfect oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

After rehearsing, we walked back to Grand Army Plaza with heavy baskets and tired arms. We stopped to watch the West Indian Day Parade with all the beautiful people and flashy costumes going by. But even with all that glitz, our mushrooms caught a few eyes.

I'll post some puffy pics later, after we shoot some B-roll.