As we have finally gotten some rain, tis the season to find these common edible puffballs strewn about your lawn or the nearest field. This genus of edible puffball is Calvatia which includes the famous (in the mushroom world) giant puffball, which can be the size of a dog…you wouldn’t miss that one.
Most Calvatia species are edible as long as the inside is pure white; I am not aware of any that aren’t. They tend to tinge green, purple, or brown as they age, which actually the mushroom is turning its own flesh into spores. It’s sort of a self-destruct unit. By that time the mushroom is too old and you can mark that spot to know that the next time it rains they have a habit to return to that general area. There are also several edible Lycoperdon species (about 50), and the same is generally true for them, however, in this article we will only cover Calvatia.
Calvatia are fairly easy to identify as long as you know these mushrooms are in a specific class which have no gills inside, they are just fluff all throughout which later turns itself into its own spores, which then are released with the help of an animal, or human who can’t resist smushing or kicking it, and are dispersed by the wind.
If you cut them open and you saw what resembled gills, then be aware that there are poisonous mushrooms such as the death cap, Amanita phalloides, which can and has been confused for puffballs. But it would be a long shot if you’re actually paying attention to what you’re doing. The trick is to realize that all mushrooms with stems and gills begin as a tightly knit ball with all of the parts inside of it, similar to an embryo, and can be mistaken for a puffball from the outside – this is why it is important to slice it in half.
A similar looking yet poisonous puffball is called the poison pigskin puffball (Scleroderma aurantium). Notice the genus (the first name) is not Calvatia. You can tell this mushroom right away by your miraculous gift of the sense of touch (No poisonous mushroom harms people by touch). While C. cythaformis is relatively smooth to the touch, the poison pigskin puffball actually is rough to the touch, i.e. the serrated marks actually stick out on the poison pigskin puffball. Another way to tell the difference between these 2 is to slice them open. The poison pigskin puffball is black colored on the inside.
The [correctly identified] puffball mushroom cooked properly makes a great meal. It makes a great tofu replacement in a stir-fry, or a cheese crumble in any baked dish like lasagna. They fry up in no time and taste a bit cheesy and like tofu, they really absorb the flavor of whatever you cook them with. I’ve even seen them battered and used as “hot wings” and puffball parmigiana recipes are all over the internet.
Always make sure you have the right mushroom and consult a professional before you eat anything, you could die. And if you think you have found it you can always email any pictures to me at Dan@returntonature.us to confirm your finds.
Happy and Safe Foraging.