Collecting and Eating Giant Puffballs
A giant puffball with a GPS unit for scale. Photo by Sulfer
So help me this guy came into my fishing tackle store with a giant puffball that weighed over forty pounds he had just collected on the side of the road, as soon as I saw it I started to drool because I knew how tasty one of these things could be.
The giant puffball, (Calvatia gigantea) is one of many varieties of puffball although this is the largest it is also highly delicious. It is also among the family of mushrooms. Some of this mushroom is tiny and although not poisonous do have a strong bitter taste so for that reason aren’t edible.
This species of mushroom is commonly found in meadows, fields and deciduous forests worldwide in the summer and fall. This is a common species that is especially common throughoutEuropeandNorth America. They can reach a size ranging from 10 to 70 centimeters in size (3.9 to 25 inches in diameter) and can weigh more then 20 kilograms (44 lb.). When a giant puffball is mature it is colored greenish-brown, but when they are young and good to eat they have white interiors.
A field of giant puffballs Photo by Martin Jones
Once the mushroom has become ripe they quickly decompose and rot at this point they are no longer edible and extremely dangerous to eat. It has been estimated that a large puffball can contain several trillion spores each of which is capable of developing into a fruiting body when they mature. These spores are yellowish, smooth ranging from 3 to 5 micrometers in size.
No sooner that had the guy showed me what he had I suggested these puffballs are highly edible, so let’s go have a couple of puffball steaks. A puffball steak is a slice of one of these mushrooms about a half inch thick that is salted and peppered and fried in butter until they are done. Don’t forget to remove the skin before you eat them.
Puffballs have the consistency of tofu or melted cheese when they are immature and edible, but you can get an upset stomach when the inside of the mushroom isn’t pure white. As the puffball ripens it goes through several color changes from yellowish to brown.
You can quickly determine if in fact this is a giant puffball by slicing it in half because you will have the silhouette of the cap-type mushroom in the interior of the puffball when they are cut open. Some of these young cap-type mushrooms can be highly poisonous so look carefully for the silhouette before eating.
To prepare a puffball for cooking cut out any brown portions as well as removing any of the tough skin that usually peels off easily. Do not soak, but puffballs can be sautéed, broiled, or breaded and fried. You can’t dehydrate puffballs although they can be cooked and frozen.