I am by no means an expert in mycology, but I’ve been foraging long enough that I know what to mess with and what not to. If you’re interested in foraging, I recommend looking up classes locally. Regionally you’ll most likely be able to find a mycology society of where ever you live. Look up books at your local library on foraging and mushrooms. Mushroom foraging is going to be very different, depending on where in the world you live and what season it is. PLEASE do not eat anything you find without being certain of what it is. People die from liver failure every year from falsely IDing mushrooms. If you aren’t 110% sure, don’t eat it. Take a picture, do a spore print (if applicable) ask in a reputable mushroom identification group.
I’ve gotten so lucky this month – stumbled upon not one, but THREE patches of giant puffball mushrooms (Calvatia gigantea). If you’re familiar with wild mushrooms, you’ve probably heard of lobster mushrooms, chanterelles, porcinis, black trumpets – but these giants are my favorites. One, for its sheer grandiose nature: the biggest one I found this week was over 5 pounds! And two, for it’s incredible texture. I chopped the first one I found last week up into cutlet sized pieces and battered and pan fried them. So simple and delicious.
If you’re out and about this time of year, walking or hiking, be on the look out. Giant puffballs will grow in the same spot every year. If you happen to find one past its prime, don’t be sad. The spores will spread and have a chance to grow into new mushrooms next year.
You can find these often growing in fairy rings (which is a common term for mushrooms of the same type that grow in a large circle). They like soil with high nutrient content, disturbed sites, woodland edges, fields, park lands, and shady mulched areas as well.
There are other mushrooms that can be confused with the giant puffball. None of which will grow to the same size – 12 inches+ – but smaller ones.
To be certain that you’ve got a true, giant puffball and not something poisonous, the size of it should be at least 5 inches and when sliced through you should not see any signs of gills or a mushroom. The flesh should be solid white. You might find that some bugs have gotten to it, but that’s normal and you can cut around those parts of the mushroom and throw them away. If you see on the link here to American Mushrooms, the poisonous look-alikes will never get close to the size of the giant puffball.
- remove all the skin
- cut away any soft, mushy parts of the flesh, and any parts that aren’t solid white and firm
- don’t cut up more than you’re going to cook; the mushroom will keep for a week stored in the fridge but once skin is removed and sliced, it won’t keep
- if you’re interested in preserving it, check out this link for some really interesting ideas
Another thing to think about – be mindful of where you’re foraging. Private property, state parks, etc…you can’t just pick from anywhere. Please don’t trespass for the sake of mycophilia. 😉