Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Giant Puffball Mushrooms

a white volleyball sized giant puffball mushroom with a slug

Hello fellow readers, My neighbor Bill ate his volleyball – a Giant Puffball Mushroom, that is. I have a volleyball, too, that I’ve been monitoring in amazement, but eating it didn’t occur to me. But it turns out they are delicious.

a Giant Puffball Mushroom, Calvatia gigantean, also know as Volleyball Mushroom in between a purple sneakers.

Giant Puffball Mushrooms are one of the ‘Foolproof Four’.

I’ve always admired folks that know what they’re doing scavenging for wild mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruit of valuable spores that decay organic material and recycle nutrients into the soil. There are several thousand varieties. And while most are technically edible, many are not pleasant to eat, and up to 250 varieties are considered significantly poisonous. That’s enough for me to stay clear of scavenging! But the Giant Puffball Mushroom is easy to find and hence one of the ‘foolproof four’ for beginner wild mushroom enthusiasts to feast on.

They’re found in the fall growing in open areas such as grassy fields, lawns, and near roads. They’re hard to miss because of their size but beware of a few poisonous look-a-likes. The look-alikes don’t grow as large so harvesting a volleyball-sized one is a safe bet.

Giant Puffball Mushrooms (Calvatia gigantean) are tasty when the flesh is firm and white on the inside and out, but use them within a day or two after harvest. Once they turn yellow or greenish, they can cause an upset stomach. In maturity, the inside of the puffball turns into a huge bag of green spores – hence why the common name is Giant Puffball.

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Bill’s Feast

Some think mushrooms are vegetables. 

Some think mushrooms are vegetables, but they’re a fungus packed with vitamins and minerals that boost energy levels and lower cholesterol. Many contain enzymes and anti-oxidants that help your immune system. Some mushrooms aid arthritis and inhibit diabetes and cancer. They’re low in calories; best of all, wild mushrooms are free!

The skin of the Giant Puffball is leathery but easy to peel off before cooking. To prepare, slice them into quarter or half-inch slabs. You can lightly salt and pepper and sauté in oil or butter until golden brown. Or, coat with a milk and egg wash before dusting with seasoned flour, then fry. You can also dice the puffball and add it to soups, rice, or risotto dishes.

Bill pureed his in basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. He also said, “you could do the balsamic, rosemary, garlic, olive oil go-to marinade for mushrooms.” Gee Bill, you’re not only a fun guy but a fungi connoisseur (I couldn’t resist).

Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

There’s more to the story you’ll enjoy in Episode 77 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

Another fascinating fungusFairy Rings 

Cabin’s The Foolproof Four: Edible Wild Mushrooms


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Diane Dellicker Reply

    Wow, Mary, I didn’t know those puffballs were mushrooms! I still don’t know if I’d try eating them, though. 😉

    • Mary Stone Reply

      I’m with you, Diane. I watched one grow and planned t harvest it then was relieved when a slug beat me to it :^). Thank you for reading my column, Mary

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