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Monday, September 13, 2010

Giant Puffball!


old puffball

There have been quite a few puffballs popping up here in the past few weeks, but I wasn't having any luck at catching one until they looked like this. "What's a puffball?" you ask. It's a fungus. Calvatia gigantea, to be exact. There are quite a few species of puffball, but I'm talking about the one commonly called giant puffball.
giant puffball

It gets that name because it often grows to more than a foot in diameter. I haven't found any that big this year. It's one of the easiest to safely identify (there really isn't any other that looks like it after it gets large), and that matters because it's also one of the tastiest! The one shown here actually looks like it's probably safe to eat- white, smooth. But when I poked it, it felt a little soft. I took it home anyway, but when I sliced it open, here is what I found.
aging puffball cut open

The interior was starting to yellow and get slimy. No treats for me with this one. However, if you look at the shape, you can see that it has no stalk, and no gills.
cut, white puffball

But today, I walked past a couple of puffballs that were about 3 inches across. They were already browning, but I knew they weren't there yesterday, so had to be pretty fresh. Something had stepped on the edge of one, so I could see that the flesh was still white. Wow! Now this was getting exciting. Why? Because I haven't had a puffball fixed the way I like it for quite a few years, and... I knew that I had the other necessary item in the refrigerator. So I brought them home, checked the inside- you can see they are white and the flesh is all the same.
frying puffball

So, I peeled the outside off, cut them in slices about 3/8 inch thick, and fried them in bacon grease. Oh.... ecstasy! I don't even know how to describe the flavor. It's not really like anything else. You can get the mushroomy flavor, but it's very mild. The texture is softer than other sliced mushrooms. It almost melts in the mouth.

I steamed some broccoli to go with it and had a truly wonderful dinner!


Duxbury Ramblers said...

We have not seen any large puff balls for years, use to see them regularly - but a lot of people forage for mushrooms and anything that is expensive in the supermarkets. Morels are prized and sites are top secret among foragers.

John | Daily Photo said...

I saw a huge fungus at the weekend, no idea what it was. It had a white rippled surface.

I don't think I'd dare eat it. I'm quite nervous around fungi! :-)

RNSANE said...

Well, I am glad you got a treat, Joan. I've never seen them but I'd be totally afraid to eat anything in the wild like that. I am not at all versed in what is safe and what isn't. I love mushrooms, that's for sure so I'd probably like these!

rainfield61 said...

You are a real expert. I won't try to eat them because lack of knowledge.

Lin said...

Oh, I have never eaten a puff ball before! Although I kinda look like one after a long summer of BBQ's and too much boozin' it up. ;)

wiseacre said...

Puffballs of any sort seem to be scarce around here. I spotted a few gem studded ones the other day but that was it for puffballs.

I did find some Witch's Butter you can use to fry yours up :)

Sandra Rose Hughes said...

Wow- what a great day for you! We have tiny fungus like that in California- it would never have even briefly entered my mind to find out if they were edible.

chubskulit said...

Very interesting, I never heard of puffball til today It sure looks delish though.

Emm said...

Oh my! You are brave! Well, I guess the best term would be wise because you obviously know what you can and can't eat! I would never eat something like that!!

Secondary Roads said...

Aren't they super? And broccoli is the perfect side dish.

Jean said...

I haven't found a puffball since I was a kid. Never knew you could eat one. Use to like to poke the really ripe ones with a stick to see the smoke looking stuff puff out.

spinninglovelydays said...

That's something I have to see someday. I'll add searching for puffballs to my list of "fungal" experiences to have, lol (truffles, morels...)

Sharkbytes said...

Carol- the morels are prized here too. Very secret spots! Actually, I'm not too fond of morels, so I don't care much.

John, Carmen, rainfield, Emm- I'm no mushroom expert. This is really the only one that I'm certain enough of to harvest on my own. There is really nothing that can be mistaken for it. (Oh, well, I can do morels, but I don't like them as much)

Lin- Oh, dear! Well, I don't think I'll eat you.

Wiseacre- Ha! Well, witch's butter is pretty.

Sandra- well, I'm not sure about any tiny ones. They might be something different.

chubskulit- they supposedly grow all over the world, so you might see one some time.

Chuck- I should have expected you to know about them- you're a country boy!

Jean- yup! The "smoke" is the fun part of the ones you can't eat, and it makes more for another year.

Ivy- Be sure to let me know if you find one!

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