Giant Puffball Mushroom

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(Scientific Name: Calvatia gigantea) A round, white or grayish-tan colored mushroom that grows or "puffs up" into the shape of a round ball. Growing without a stem or gills, the Giant Puffball may be somewhat small in size reaching 4 to 6 ounces or grow to a size of 20 to 40 pounds exceeding 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Slightly nutty flavored, the Puffball has a bright white inner meat with a dense and firm texture, somewhat similar to a marshmallow, that should not tear when cut cleanly with a knife. If the flesh is discolored (yellowed or brown), does not cut cleanly or contains evidence of excessive moisture, avoid using the Puffball. Before eating, always cut open the Puffball to make sure it contains only a consistently dense flesh without features such as gills, a stem or a cap beginning to form. Since small varieties of Puffball mushrooms can be confused for other poisonous varieties such as "Amanitas" or "Amanitaceae" when they are very young it is always important to cut open the mushroom to check for gills. The Small Puffball contains no gills, but on the outside closely resembles the Amanita. As the Puffball mushrooms mature and dry their color changes from white to yellow and then brown on the outside with a powdery collection of dark brown spores on the inside.

Puffballs can be stored in the refrigerator for several days before loosing their flavor. If frozen raw, they will tend to become somewhat mushy when thawed, so it may be best, depending on the food, to prepare foods with cooked mushrooms added and then freeze the entire food dish for storage.

When preparing Puffballs, brush the dirt away from the outer skin and cut the bottom base off of the round mushroom. Clean with water the base and any outer particles that can and should be removed. The skin can be eaten but if if feels too tough, it may be best to remove it. The Giant Puffball can be sliced or cubed to be added to various dishes as salads, eggs, pasta, rice, meats, soups or stews. If cooked as sliced pieces, Puffballs can be coated with a batter prepared with eggs and herbs, dipped in roasted breadcrumbs, sautéed in olive or cooking oil until they have a golden color, and served warm.

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