I have been eyeing some beautiful little puffballs for over a week now and finally took time to do some research on them. After consulting my reference books, field guides and many websites, my confidence was high and I was ready to give them a try. I thought this would be a good mushroom to start with as they are very easy to identify (and you further confirm their identity by slicing them in half and seeing what they look like on the inside). They are considered to be a very safe mushroom.
H and I harvested all that we could find on our morning hike, which was only about twelve very small puffballs (just under 1 inch wide). We ended up discarding half of them as they were just turning yellowish, and when sliced in half, were forming stink holes inside and getting a bit soft and pungent. When they are at this softer stage they are actually still edible and even considered a delicacy in Germany, but as this was my first adventure foraging and cooking fresh wild mushrooms, I wasn’t interested! It is probably an acquired taste! The remaining puffballs were nice and firm and had perfect undifferentiated white flesh. Satisfied that I was indeed working with puffballs, I sliced these very thinly, sautéed them in butter and served them over poached eggs at breakfast. They were delicious!!!
This is our wild mushroom breakfast, served with grilled tomatoes and brioche.
Because there was such a small amount of the cooked mushrooms, we ate very slowly, prolonging the experience as much as we could. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a mushroom this fresh before! Again… delicious!!!
We also had a Wild Berry Fruit Salad on the side:
If you are interested in learning more about Lycoperdon perlatum, here is some of my research and a few helpful resources:
Gem-Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)
According to Schalkwyk (1987), true puffballs are the safest possible mushrooms to identify and eat. They are also known as Common Puffball, Gemmed Puffball, Warted Puffball or Devil’s Snuffbox.
One of the most common puffballs in North America, Lycoperdon perlatum is usually round or pear-shaped and grows both, on its own or in a group. You can find this mushroom from July to October growing on the ground, both in the woods as well as in open areas.
Lycoperdon perlatum is edible and choice when young. They can grow up to 3.5 inches across and 4 inches high. Due to their distinct shape and texture, they are easy to identify and gather for cooking. While young, the flesh is firm, white in color and undifferentiated. As it ages, the flesh turns yellowish and eventually brown and its firmness is replaced with a powdery texture. The surface is covered with white, gray or brown spines, which fall off as the mushroom matures.
Be sure to pick onesthat are white and firm to the touch. Once you get home, confirm your mushroom’s identity by slicing them in half. If the flesh is white and undifferentiated, it is a puffball and safe to eat. If, instead of undifferentiated white flesh you see the shape of an embryonic mushroom, it may be an amanita (in the button stage) and poisonous. Discard!
As puffballs mature, a ‘stink hole’ forms. It is called this because it smells like carrion, which inspired the name ‘Devil’s Snuffbox’. The stink hole leads to a single pore at the top of the mushroom where the spores are released.
There are around 18 different types of puffballs (according to my research so far); most notable is the Giant Puffball, which can be up to five feet across and weighing 50 pounds! Robert Rogers lists many medicinal uses for puffballs in his book, The Fungal Pharmacy: Medicinal Mushrooms of Western Canada. (Note: We had the privilege of attending Alberta’s First Annual Herb Gathering just a few weeks ago, which was organized by Robert (and Abrah Arneson). His workshop on Medicinal Mushrooms was inspiring and I was in awe of his encyclopedic knowledge of mushrooms and fungi! He is the Vice President of The Alberta Mycological Society and teaches at the University of Alberta as well for the Earth Spirit Medicine Program at the Northern Star College. I highly recommend his book.)
How to Prepare Puffballs for Eating:
Brush or peel the mushroom.
Sauté in butter and add to salads, casseroles, soups, pasta dishes, etc.
*NEVER eat anything that you are not absolutely sure of the identity of. If, like me, you are just starting out, consider joining your local Mycological Society (i.e. Alberta Mycological Society) and participating in some forays in your local area.
Rogers, R. (2006). The Fungal Pharmacy: Medicinal Mushrooms of Western
Canada. Prairie Deva Press: Edmonton Alberta.
Schalkwyk, H. (1987). Some Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms in and Around
Edmonton. Self Published. Edmonton, Alberta.
Sept, J.D. (2006). Common Mushrooms of the Northwest. Calypso Publishing: Sechelt,