Sometimes, life throws you huge surprises.

I came home from work Monday to what appeared to be Halloween decorations, skulls to be specific, set into my front yard ivy. My wife is really into Halloween, but this is just a tad early, I thought.

Upon further investigation, they were not sculls at all. It was giant puffball mushrooms! Well, at the time, I just thought they were giant mushrooms. I am a big fan of the mushrooms that you buy in the store, but I know nothing about wild mushrooms. Fortunately for me, my friend Sam Foster does know about mushrooms, so I took a photo and emailed it over to him, asking “are these edible?” He replied “I’d have to double check, but if memory serves me, I think that all varieties of the puffballs are edible.”

Sam then sent me several links regarding identification. If you slice a giant puffball in half lengthwise and it is solid, firm, white flesh and no sign of gills and no other colors or structure present, then it is indeed a giant puffball mushroom.

Note: Always consult an expert if you are unsure. Wild mushrooms can be deadly. Never eat a wild mushroom until you are 100 percent sure it is edible.

So, there I was with four of these soccer-ball-sized edible mushrooms that literally sprung up overnight. I picked one to deliver to Sam and it felt like it was 3 or 4 pounds. Sam and his family proceeded to remove the outer skin, which peeled off in nice, flexible sheets and slice it up several ways. The texture was like a marshmallow, firm and a little give. They cubed over four trays for dehydration to use in soups and stock later.

They cut up several “mushroom steaks,” which they breaded, spiced and fried, serving them topped with fresh tomato sauce from the garden. They fried some in butter, which they said was “yummy.” They even roasted some for a batch of “mushroom hummus.” After hearing about the many ways they used these and how happy they were to receive them, I delivered several more to them, as well as a few to foodies and chefs around town to see what they would do with them.

I picked them all within two to three days of their appearance. They literally pop up one morning and, a day or two later, are the size of a soccer ball. If you pick them before the animals decide to eat them, while they are still firm, they are truly a gift from nature. These mushrooms are not cultivated, always wild.

When Sam asked the family what they thought of the giant puffball mushrooms, Sam’s wife, Abbie, said, “These are the most delicious mushrooms that I have ever had in my entire life.” Their son, Eldon, said with great excitement, “I feel they taste like Heaven!”

I have always read that God provides. The animals always seem to find what they need (they were nibbling on some of these, by the way). To me, this bounty from Heaven came on just the right week at just the right time. Today, I discovered another batch of seven or eight more in my back woods.

Speaking of life sometimes throwing you huge surprises, I found the most surprising breakfast spot the same day that I found the Giant Puffballs. I say “surprising” breakfast spot because the exterior of this building was such a turnoff that I never even gave the place a second thought. On a whim, I decided to check it out. Wow, was I surprised.

The spot is Michelle’s Place on North Court in Medina. Michelle Ward, the owner, does all of the cooking. Let me just say that the potatoes, the omelet and the pancake she insisted that I try were all fantastic. I learned that day to not judge a book by it’s cover. I came back after lunch and brought Michelle a giant puffball mushroom. She took a bite out of it right then and there and said the taste was amazing. I thought to myself, “This woman knows her stuff!”

Speaking of amazing breakfast spots, I would like to hear from my readers. Email me your favorite non-chain breakfast spot. I would like to write a column about reader’s favorite places to start the day in each of the nine communities that we serve.

Keep your eyes open for the surprises life is trying to show you!

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