Did I just find truffles in my front yard?
September 18, 2014 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Are these things truffles? If they are, what kind are they, and, if they're edible, how should I prepare them?

Found just now in my front yard in Burlington, Vermont. They were in a shady area, near a blue spruce, growing right there in the soil, protruding up through to the surface. They were dislodged easily with gentle prodding.

I took them inside and rinsed them. They smell earthy and slightly funky. Each one is a little bigger than a golf ball, and they look like small potatoes.

What are these things? Truffles? Are they edible? Are they "ripe"?

I saw several more in the same area, ready for the pluckin'.
posted by Dr. Wu to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They look like it, but I'm not about to tell you to eat them.

There's some good basic info on this page, and if you scroll down you'll find an identification key. You may be able to narrow the ID down.

(If you've never used a key like that before, you answer the two paired questions, each of which has a number after it. If the answer to question A is yes, go to the number listed after the question. If A is no and B is yes, go to that number. If the answer to neither is yes, pull out your hair in frustration.)
posted by mudpuppie at 2:30 PM on September 18, 2014

From the same website mudpuppie linked to:

There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles, and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are considered to be delicacies by humans.

No truffles are known to be poisonous to humans (but we don't know everything...). This non-toxicity seems sensible, considering that truffles rely on small animals (via mycophagy) to distribute their spores. That said, ALWAYS be absolutely sure of the identification of anything you are considering eating! Many poisonous Amanita and Cortinarius mushrooms start out as belowground "eggs" that can be dead-ringers for truffles at a glance.

I wouldn't eat them.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:37 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Please don't eat them! Watch this. And he was a mycologist as well.
posted by derbs at 2:48 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I won't eat them, I promise - at least not until I can get a 100% identification on them. I'll play with that ID key a bit and see what I can come up with.

All further input welcome! Any MeFi trufflers out there?
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:03 PM on September 18, 2014

Find your local mycological society--looks like there's one in your city but I did not see a dedicated website. They will often have meetup which are open to the public for prospective members or interested public and can ID fungus.
posted by Lardmitten at 3:13 PM on September 18, 2014

You could also put the pictures up on MushroomObserver, label it an Ascomycete (my guess; you may find different after going through the key) and see if anyone provides a more specific id.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:34 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: My mycologist son, Zen Jr., says they're of the genus Scleroderma and they are definitely NOT edible.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:57 PM on September 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

I deliver my mushroom uncertainties to Reddit's doorstep. It sounds crazier than it actually is. They haven't gotten me killed yet. Still time, though.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:17 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Those are unlikely to be truffles. Truffles most distinguishing characteristics are pits and ridges and your mushrooms have neither (instead they look like a big full puff ball). Please do not eat those.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:28 PM on September 18, 2014

Your local Cooperative Extension service (in the paper phonebook, probably online) is a good resource. If they can't help you, they probably know who can.
posted by theora55 at 9:31 PM on September 18, 2014

They look like immature puffballs to me, which are edible when sold before they become puffy. We've picked some in Groton VT before and they were eaten, but again I'm not a mycologists so ymmv.
posted by koolkat at 5:17 AM on September 19, 2014

When in doubt, don't eat.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:04 AM on September 19, 2014

Response by poster: All righty - I sliced them open and found that they exactly resemble the scleroderma that ZenMasterThis links to above. Weird, ugly little things, really. Sort of like if everlasting gobstoppers came in fungus form.

They were duly chucked into the compost pile.

If anyone is, like, a scleroderma collector, or something, lemme know. I can hook you up.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2014

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