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:
Or this one, also from VT, which resembles a giant puffy pancake.
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.
When I got home, I googled “GIANT PUFFBALL” and Whaddaya know?! CHA-CHING! The Giant Puffball Mushroom, or Calvatia gigantea
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.
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