Perhaps you've seen some giant puffball mushrooms in a meadow. As you stare at one of the huge globes a thought comes to mind....
I cannot wait to kick this thing!
Well, wait a little longer! First off if the mushroom is white it is still immature and hasn't produced spores yet. So you won't kick up the desired spore cloud quite yet. Secondly there is more to the puffball than meets the eye.
Giant puffball mushrooms are edible. Some say they have no real taste of their own and just absorb the flavors around them like tofu. Others have described their taste as rich, earthy, and nutty (good descriptions, I think).
If you're lucky enough to live in an area where they're sold you can pick one up at the store. The picture to the right shows puffballs and other mushrooms for sale at a store in the UK.
The rest of us will have to find them in the wild. There are two main concerns with harvesting them: correctly identifying the mushroom and picking it at the right age.
Correct identification is crucial. If you think you've found a giant puffball the first thing to do is cut it open. It should have thick, hard, white flesh inside. Don't eat anything with a brown, black, purple, or yellow interior. It may be an earthball (Scleroderma citrinum) or some other gastric distress inducing mushroom.
This white flesh should be solid with no gills. If you see any evidence of gills disregard immediately. Some species, including the deadly Amanita, have a "universal veil" of tissue that surrounds the mushroom when young. This can make it look like a puffball.
Inexperienced hunters should check with someone knowledgeable if they think they've found a giant puffball. An incorrect guess can kill if it turns out to be an Aminita! Please be careful.
If you are certain you've found the right mushroom it should also be the right age. Only the younger, immature giant puffballs are edible. Again make sure the flesh is white and solid. Anything brown, broken, soft, or full of brown, dusty spores is too mature to eat.
Eat puffball mushrooms soon after harvesting as they don't keep well. You may find them too mushy after freezing and thawing. It is possible to dry and reconstitute them although they may be a little tough.
The most popular way to eat them is to fry in oil with a batter (really good). These mushrooms can be a versatile food item. Some other quick ideas to enjoy them:
Giant puffball mushrooms have possible medicinal uses as well. Remember those trillions of spores they produce? The dried spores can slow bleeding if they're used as a coagulant. They were reportedly used in Native American folk medicine to treat bleeding and prevent infection.
The use of Calvatia gigantea in folk medicine led researchers to to investigate it further. In the 1960's they isolated the substance calvacin, which was shown to inhibit sarcoma in lab mice. Calvacin is now cited as one of the first substances with antitumor activity isolated from a mushroom.
Unfortunately I am unable to find any detailed experiments on calvacin or giant puffballs on the web. If you know of something, or if you just want to tell someone about the huge puffball you found in your yard, please contact me.
A large puffball mushroom always imparts a sense of fun whimsy and imagination. If you have a puffball picture or story to share, here's the place to show it off!
Click on the links below to see some fun puffball posts. They were all written by other visitors to this page.
Hello, I have no photos to go with this story, but I have been fortunate to find many wild puffballs in North Carolina since I moved here 12 years ago. …
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My son Finley (9) found a puffball that measured 66.5 inches and weighed 16kg on l2/10/10 in Huddersfield, England. It was reported in the Huddersfield …
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My husband started telling me about these mushrooms in the front yard this morning. He said at first, he thought that they were skins of cantaloupe which …
Giant Puffball in Ontario - Last weekend we found a giant puffball mushroom growing in the forest behind the garage at our cottage in Ontario ...
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Picture 1 by Sulfur and is from Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Picture 2 by Brendan M. Thomas and is from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.
Picture 3 by Nathan Lee and is from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.