Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea)
Range: The giant puffball is found in temperate areas around the world, mostly in meadows, fields, and deciduous forests.
Harvest Season: Late summer to early fall.
Identifying Characteristics: Giant puffballs generally grow 10 to 50 centimeters across, though they reportedly can grow up to 150 centimeters across! The inside of a mature giant puffball is greenish brown. They’re edible when young, when the inside flesh is white rather than greenish brown. They’re dangerous to eat when mature!
Dangerous Lookalikes: All true puffball species are edible when young but toxic in adulthood. Cut them open to ensure they’re white before eating. The trouble is that puffballs may resemble many other species of mushroom when young, including some very toxic species. To tell them apart, cut the mushroom open. Puffballs will have a solid white interior, while lookalikes may be other colors. Other toxic lookalikes have a white interior but show the silhouette of a cap or gills when cut – ensure that these are absent before eating.
Giant puffballs may also be confused with earthballs, particularly in the U.K. Earthballs are darker on the inside early in development – but may still be white when young. The skin of an earthball is firm and punctuated with wartlike bumps. Ensure that the puffball is smooth, has a stem, and is white before eating. When in doubt, throw it out!
Preparation: Do not wash – this fungus will soak up water. They can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator without losing much quality.