Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy


Puffball mushroom is the collective name for many different mushrooms with similar characteristics. But, in this article, we’ll focus on one specific puffball, the giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea). This mushroom can grow up to one foot in diameter. This wild edible is available in temperate areas throughout the world. You should be able to find giant puffballs in meadows, forests, and fields in late summer or early fall.

Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: beautifulcataya/Flickr)

Edibility and culinary use

Giant puffballs have a mild nutty and earthy taste. It’s also able to soak up the flavor of any sauces, spices, or herbs it’s cooked with, making it a very versatile cooking ingredient. These mushrooms also have a delicate, tofu-like texture. They can be cooked in many different ways, boiled, baked, roasted, or even fried. Puffballs can be used in recipes as a substitute for eggplant or tofu. Try to experiment with many different recipes and find out which one is your favorite.

Since the rind may cause an upset stomach on some people, it’s best to remove the rind and only eat the inner flesh. When you cut the mushroom open, make sure there are no discolorations. If there are any other colors than white, throw the mushroom away. Also, it’s not recommended to wash the interior of the mushroom before cooking. Doing so will only make the mushroom soggy. Lastly, puffballs taste better when fresh, but you can also freeze or dry them for later use.

Health benefits

Just like other common mushrooms, the giant puffballs have great nutritional content. They’re rich in protein and low in calories. They’re also very filling, making them wonderful for weight loss. Moreover, it can also lower your cholesterol, increase your cardiovascular health, and boost your immune system.

Young giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Young giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons)

Aside from that, some research has shown that the giant puffballs can help treat various bleeding, such as oral bleeding and traumatic hemorrhage. Lastly, puffballs also contain a chemical compound called calvacin. While more studies are needed to get a more conclusive result, some scientists believe that this compound may have antitumor and anticancer properties.

Cultivation

Unlike most common mushrooms, growing puffballs can be a challenge. They grow and feed in a different manner compared to other common mushrooms. It may take several tries to successfully cultivate the giant puffball. However, if you’re up to the challenge, here’s how you can grow them in your own home.

First, you need to get some viable spores. If you know for sure that there are some wild giant puffballs near your home, pick them once they turn brown. It means the puffballs are full of spores. But, it’s recommended to just buy mature giant puffballs from the internet as you run the risk of misidentifying the wild mushroom.

Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: Wing-Chi Poon/Wikimedia Commons)

Once you have your mature puffballs, break them open with a knife. Then, press the mushrooms until all the spores pop out. Fill a bucket with two gallons of spring or nonchlorinated water. Add a pinch of salt to keep bacteria away and a spoonful of molasses to feed the spores. Let everything soak at room temperature for two days.

Then, pour the mixture onto your lawn. Mist the area every couple of days to keep everything moist. The mycelium will eventually penetrate the ground and the mushrooms will grow. If you’re successful, you can expect the mushrooms to start fruiting within 3 or 4 weeks.

Harvest the puffballs while they are still young and pure white. Don’t pick the mushrooms with your bare hands as you might damage the mycelium. Instead, use a very sharp knife to make a clean cut. This way, the mycelium will be preserved and the mushrooms will come back year after year.

Cautions

There’s one thing you must always remember when harvesting giant puffball mushrooms. They must be pure white with no discolorations or patterns. Discoloration on the mushroom means that it’s beginning to decompose and rot. Thus, making it dangerous to consume. At the very least it can cause a severe stomachache. And if you see any pattern on the mushroom you’re about to pick, leave it alone. Patterns on the mushroom gills are a sign of an immature Amanita mushroom which is lethally poisonous. 

Conclusion

If you love mushroom hunting, then you’ll definitely love the giant puffball. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a huge puffball in the wild and bringing it home for cooking. With its versatile flavor, this wild edible can be a great addition to your meals. Just remember to stick with the identification rule and you wouldn’t need to worry about any poisonous look-a-likes. Lastly, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try cultivating this mushroom in your own garden. It may be difficult, but the results will definitely be worth the effort.


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Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



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