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What is a Giant Puffball Mushroom?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The giant puffball mushroom or Calvatia gigantea is an edible mushroom which is found abundantly in meadows, deciduous forests, and fields all over the world. While the flavor of a giant puffball mushroom is rather bland, the mushrooms have a dense, meaty texture and they absorb flavors very readily, making them a popular edible. Farmers' markets may have giant puffball mushrooms in season, as will some specialty stores. If you are an experienced mushroom hunter, you can also collect them.

The mushroom looks vaguely like a large ball of meringue which has been dropped on the ground. When it is ready to eat, the giant puffball mushroom will start to crack slightly, revealing a blindingly white interior. Within days, the spores in the interior will mature and the mushroom will start to rot, becoming inedible. If the mushroom is allowed to dry out, a swift kick will release a plentiful cloud of dust, as many woods-walkers have learned.

In many cases, a giant puffball mushroom can closely approach a soccer ball in size, and it can weigh up to 40 pounds (20 kilograms). When sliced open, a giant puffball mushroom will be pure white, with no trace of gills at all. The mushrooms should be trimmed to remove bad portions and brushed for dirt, if they are going to be eaten. If you want to save giant puffball mushrooms for later, cook them before freezing them, as they do not freeze well when raw, and do not bother with trying to dry them.

The mushrooms can be sliced and marinated like other meaty mushrooms, and they can also be added to soups, stews, and sauces. When cooked, the texture closely resembles tofu, and the mushrooms tend to be very dense and satisfying. Many people like to add them to dishes which they intend to freeze, since the cooked mushrooms will hold up well in the freezer for several months.

Numerous puffball mushrooms are edible when young, and some of them are quite tasty. However, several poisonous mushrooms look a great deal like puffball mushrooms when they are young. Therefore, it is extremely important to identify a puffball mushroom correctly before harvesting and eating it. If your mushroom identification skills are weak, try taking a class or guided tour to collect mushrooms, and always check your finds with someone else. Even experienced mushroom identifiers have been known to misidentify puffballs, so they require more caution than some other edible mushroom species.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon124845 — On Nov 07, 2010

i would also like to buy giant puffball spores as well as the purple spore puffballs. any ideas where to get them?

By anon16865 — On Aug 16, 2008

Is there a health risk of breathing in Puffball Mushroom spore dust?

By moomoo — On Jul 24, 2008

My yard contains the remains of 8 puffball mushrooms. The growth began about 9 days ago, developing into the size of golf balls. "As they continued to mature, one reached the size of a salad plate. The extremely hot sun has caused them to be a beige color, and to decrease in size. They have been the curiosity of the neighborhood, and I'm hoping the spores will produce more, as they have been so beautiful.

By anon14759 — On Jun 23, 2008

Sirs: This is an accurate, great review of the puffball mushroom. I have an elderly friend who was raised in Montana. Her grandmother used to harvest puffball mushrooms and saute' them. She describes wonderful childhood memories.

She now resides in L.A., CA and would like to purchase some fresh puffballs. Her local farmers' market has never offered this species of mushrooms for purchase. Would you suggest a place of purchase, even remote, that can ship to her? Thank you. Deborah

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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