Edible Puffballs in your front lawn – A Look at Calvatia Species

Calvatia cyathiformis

 

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.

 

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Spores being dispersed by the wind

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.

see how theres no gills, and its pure white

Notice how there are no gills, and its pure white

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.

Poison Pigskin Puffball – Scleroderma aurantium

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.

Poisonous Scleroderma species - See black inside

Poisonous Scleroderma species – See black inside

Calvatia – Note the yellow tinge – slightly too old

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.

Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

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11 Responses to Edible Puffballs in your front lawn – A Look at Calvatia Species

  1. mike st.cin says:

    we just picked some puffballs from the yard and they tasted great. our first time eating them.

  2. gordon jones says:

    Just found 2 giant puffballs, one the size of a soccer ball, the other bigger than a basketball!! Fried up the small one, about the size of a baseball, it was delicious, Got a question, can I freeze the large ones?? I have sliced them, & have 5, one gallon freezer sacks full . help! PZBSOCK

  3. Rachel says:

    Thanks for your help Dan! When I found what I thought to be a Puffball mushroom and Googled ‘Puffball mushrooms’, your site was very helpful. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly about my questions and confirming that I had a Puffball mushroom through the pictures I sent you. My roommate and I fried it up with butter, salt and pepper and it was very tasty. Now I’m confident I will be able to identify them when I find more.

  4. Erin says:

    I woud like to know what causes these mushrooms to grow all the sudden in places they never grew before? We have found one or two in the last few years and they have gron virtually the same place every year. This year however, they are all over the place! We’ve gone from 1 or 2 to over 30 of the things and counting! We’ve had a very dry year here in Wisconsin and have only hd a few good rain showers in the last couple of weeks. I noticed earlier in the year, and years past, that rings form in the grass. This year there were several rings that were noticeable because they wee darker then the rest of the grass. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I had never seen anything like this before. When I took my dogs out Friday to play I noticed a huge ring down across the yard. I walked down there and saw these mushrooms all around the ring I then started noticeing them growing all over as I walk around the yard. They were everywhere! I have lived here over 30 years and have never seen anything like this before! This was once a dairy far years ago, now the only being raised are the dirt mounds from either gophers or woodchucks, or whatever makes the mounds! Whatever they are they are also taking over the yard! Could they have anything to do with the sudden growth of mushrooms around the place?

    • Dan says:

      each mushroom releases millions of microscopic spores that are carried by the wind. And rain helps to saturate them into mycelium, then the right conditions of moisture and sunlight causes “mushrooms” which are the fruiting body of an underground network that is connected to and grows in symbiosis with plants and trees, sending and sharing chlorophyll and other nutrients among the forest as the forest healer.

  5. Lara says:

    Hi Dan,
    We have what appears to be the puffballs on our yard. We are new to the whole notion of foraging and thus feel uneasy consuming something other then chanterelles or lobster mashrooms. Accidentally I came across your web-site and really liked it. Would you be able to confirm that what we think is the puffball is indeed the puffball? Can I send you the picture of it? Your help will be greatly appreciated.

  6. Jan in cincinnati says:

    I found several Calvatias in my yard and can’t wait to feast on them! It is fun to see them pop up suddenly!

  7. Diana Malcolm says:

    I used to pick mushrooms with my mother years ago but now that she has passed I no longer trust myself to identify some of the mushrooms. I believe your website will be very helpful to me.

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