The Giant Puffball Mushroom

Nature is FASCINATING. Especially for someone like me who loves food. Although I’ve never been daring enough to collect and consume wild mushrooms – mostly b/c I have no idea what I’m doing and would likely wind up dead or whacked out of my mind – I still enjoy discovering the abundance of fungi out there. Just look at this one I found in Vermont, which looks quite egg-y to me:

mushroom

Or this one, also from VT, which resembles a giant puffy pancake.

mushroom2

My husband recently introduced me to this online program – a mushroom catalog, detailing which are edible and which lethal. I particularly like the little emoticon faces – from happy to ill, and worse.

I visit a local nature refuge several times a week.  This fall has brought forth several remarkable mushrooms, each the size of a soccer ball.  I was FLOORED the first time I saw one. WOW! Look at the SIZE OF THAT THING!  Of course my husband and I – being the way we are – immediately grabbed one and began kicking it back and forth to each other.  After a few kicks…BAM! it exploded, and we were left with large white chunks.  We realized the whole mushroom had been solid, rather than hollow.  It struck me as so remarkable that I decided to take a few photographs and do a little research.

puffballmushroom2

When I got home, I googled “GIANT PUFFBALL” and Whaddaya know?! CHA-CHING! The Giant Puffball Mushroom, or Calvatia gigantea

puffballmushroom1

Giant puffballs resemble the white button mushrooms you find in every supermarket, but are smooth solid white globes, lacking gills of any sort. The ones we’ve found have been no more than 12 inches in diameter, but puffballs can be as small as golf balls or as large as medicine balls – some weighing up to 40 POUNDS. The young, all-white mushrooms are edible and said to be quite tasty, w/ a flavor akin to tofu or melted cheese. For more detailed information on consuming giant puffballs, see the following RecipeTips entry.

As the Giant Puffballs age, they eventually split and turn yellow, and then brown, as they begin to spore.  I found a specimen at Tinicum which had opened and begun the process.

puffball3

puffball4

Once they reach this stage, giants puffballs are INEDIBLE. (Not that anyone in their right mind would be interested in gobbling that mess up.. But still. I offer the warning.)

For more information on Giant Puffballs, check out the following websites:

Tom Volk’s entry w/ FUNNY PHOTOS is definitely worth a click.
Wikipedia entry on Calvatia gigantea
Wildman Steve Brill’s entry on the Giant Puffball
David Fischer’s American Mushrooms entry on BEST EDIBLE WILD MUSHROOMS: Giant Puffball

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14 thoughts on “The Giant Puffball Mushroom

  1. wonderful post; I love mushrooms!

    I am sure that mushrooms played an important part in human evolution and consciousness, particularly those mushrooms with a psychedelic component.

    I remember going mushroom picking in VT and really enjoying the experience of finding such tasty food naturally.

    Long live the mushroom!

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  2. I feel so flippin knowledgable on mushrooms now.
    I really like mushrooms, I like wild mushrooms, I think it’s because with my food I am a bit of a texture freak. I love eating things that feel weird in your mouth. (I know.. I worry myself) Wild rice is one of my fave textures!
    Great pics though and also erm, if you wack mushrooms about they will explode!!

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  3. i lurve mushrooms. isn’t that a weird thing to like for someone as picky as me?

    growing up on “the farm”, we always had the “puffer” mushrooms–you step on them and puffs of poison(?) escape from a hole in the top. that’s the kind of fun we used to have when i was a kid.

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  4. Reminds me of my aunt’s friend who went searching for mushrooms. She slipped in the mud, whacked her head on a tree, and when she shakily put her glasses back on, her sight was all fuzzy in one eye and wouldn’t clear. She somehow drove herself to the doctor’s office, and was miffed when he walked in and burst out laughing! Turns out she’d knocked the lense out of that side of her glasses when she whacked her head. And that’s all I know about mushrooms :)

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  5. Fascinating. Not a lot of shrooms here in my neck of the woods (Arizona), and the ones we do have tend to be of the smaller variety. A soccer ball sized mushroom. Amazing. I’ve never been a big fan of mushroom, but cream of mushroom soup is my favorite. What’s up with that? :P They’re good on pizza too, but I draw the line there. ;)

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  6. This is so funny. I just Googled “Edible Mushrooms” last week.

    I love mushrooms!

    The only mushrooms I used to look for were in cow pastures. ;) Another life ago.

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  7. Here’s a loaf of bread mushroom I took a picture of:

    http://laurushka.org/gallery/album273/IMG_3552

    Next to my big foot:

    http://laurushka.org/gallery/album273/IMG_3553

    There was dog poop nearby, so I didn’t even think about eating it.
    And here’s a puffball next to Joe’s foot:

    http://laurushka.org/gallery/album277/IMG_3642

    It’s like a soccer ball!
    I think Joe’s mom used to pick edible mushrooms when he was younger.
    Have you heard of this book: Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and other Wild Recipes? Doesn’t that look cool?

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  8. I could soooo see you and John kicking that mushroom around and the explosion that followed! LOL

    I love mushrooms!!! I have been experimenting with some different varieties…yummy and fun. I am too chicken to get them in the wild.

    Tracie, that is HILARIOUS!!!

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