September 26, 2012
The Mycological Society of San Francisco entry for puffballs (Calvatia, Calbovista, Lycoperdon) says
Puffballs come in many sizes, some as small as a marble and some as large as a basketball. The name “puffball” is used here to refer to three genera of fungi, Calvatia, Calbovista, and Lycoperdon. Their surfaces may be smooth, covered with small or large warts, or ornamented with spikes. Puffballs are usually white and round, and are attached to the ground with little or no apparent stem.
Puffballs seem to prefer disturbed earth, and enjoy surprising the forager, for they are seldom the prey being sought. The largest ones are members of the genus Calvatia. It is estimated that the average mature specimen of C. gigantea contains 7 trillion spores stored inside the puffball!
Most puffballs are safe to eat, although rare reactions have been reported.
Two important notes:
- They must be all-white inside. Any shade of yellow or purple makes them inedible or upsetting.
- When cut, they must have a uniform internal consistency. The external appearance of immature Amanita species is similar to puffballs. However, the cap and gills of these unexpanded mushrooms become apparent when the egg-shaped fungi are cut in half. The Amanita genus includes the most poisonous species of mushrooms.
They note that puffballs are often known as the “breakfast mushroom” because they pair so well with eggs. Read on for some recipes.
You can also get a recipe for puffball fritters from the Cornell Mycology department where they note that if each of those 7 trillion (7,000,000,000,000) spores grew and yielded a ten-inch puffball, the combined puffball mass would be 800 times that of the earth. I’m not sure exactly what you can do with that knowledge, but here’s hoping it comes in handy.
More Michigan mushrooms on Michigan in Pictures.