Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little Shop of Horrors: Puffballs.

Aww, puffballs! Those sound adorable! Surely they must be cute, fluffy furry things, right? Headcat would never lie to us!

Haha, no. Actually, puffballs are a type of fungus:

"Puffball" can refer to any type of mushroom that reproduces using gasterothecia - a basidiocarp that holds the spores inside instead of outside like on other mushrooms. They span several orders and genera, meaning that there are several hundred species of puffball to choose from. Touch one wherever you are and it puffs millions of spores into the air.

To truly appreciate a puffball, one must first learn how fungi reproduce. When a man-mushroom and a lady-mushroom love each other very, very much...


...Kidding, it's not like that at all. Fungi give birth by releasing spores via fruiting bodies (such as mushrooms or puffballs). Yes, those 'shrooms are a fungus's junk, making every piece of your veggie pizza an unholy exercise in fungal castration. The spores are usually on the underside of the mushroom, scattered along the gills and waiting to be blown away.

Puffballs take a different way out. Whenever something brushes against a puffball, the shell breaks, scattering millions of spores into the wind. This is a faster reproductive strategy than the average mushroom.  Plus, if humans decide to be douchebags, so much the better for the puffball.

Puffballs are usually not poisonous. Some, however, look very similar to poisonous mushrooms like "Death Caps." Care must be taken when hunting for immature puffballs to be made into 'steak.' Food-grade puffballs are cut in half lengthwise, just to be sure they aren't ninja death mushrooms. Yes, they actually eat puffballs.

In CANADA, no less!

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