Botanical Name : Langermannia gigantea (recently reclassified as Calvatia gigantea).
Common names : Giant puffball, Puffball mushroom
Physical appearance : A large mostly spherical mushroom, often 10 to 35 cm in diameter. It usually has white, smooth slightly leathery skin. Its flesh is also white, eventually turning to yellow and then green when old (becoming less digestible and eventually poisonous). The mushroom appears to grow straight from the ground but can be attached via a fine filament of roots. The Giant Puffball has been known to grow up to a metre in diameter.
Best places to find : Commonly found in orchards, pastures, meadows and under hedgerows.
Edible parts : Younger specimens are edible in their entirety. Even a fairly small puffball can provide a substantial meal for a couple of people.
Time of year : From October to January.
Recipe : Sliced into 1 - 2 cm thick slices, dipped in a simple egg and flour batter, followed by breadcrumbs and then shallow fried in vegetable oil.
Alternative recipe : Try frying thinly sliced with bacon and onions. Very complimentary flavours.
Interesting factoid : Historically, the giant puffball has been used as a styptic. It was often collected before battles in preparation for potential wound treatment. Can be thought of as an absorbent wound dressing with coagulant qualities.
Above - a fully mature specimen which has developed its spores, ready for release. Well passed the stage of being edible!
NB! - Please be sure you know what you are picking, many plants look similar to each other and may be poisonous. If you are unsure, please seek professional instruction! This is especially the case with fungi.
Please note : Similar non edible puffballs can be hard to distinguish from the edible varieties. The easiest way to tell is to cut into the main body of the fruit. The poisonous (non edible) versions have the imprint of a silhouette of a cap-type mushroom on the interior when cut open (see below). Any deviation from a smooth, white, marshmallow colour and texture are indications of the Puffball being of non edible variety.
The Bushgear Team
Photos courtesy of Maerian, Biopics, Digonal Richard Indyr and Michael Gabler, Hans Hillewaert via Wiki Creative Commons