How to identify, cook, and store puffball mushrooms
Giant puffball mushrooms, or Calvatia gigantea, are a popular and recognizable edible mushroom.
Puffballs are round with a white interior and exterior and grow on small, barely noticeable stems.
The tofu-like texture of puffballs makes them extremely versatile to cook with.
Take a walk around outside after a rainstorm, and you might see a large, white fungus sprouting from the ground. an urban farmer and global forager, says it’s the type of thing you probably kicked to your friend on the playground simply because it “looks funny” and slightly resembles a soccer ball.
Identifying giant puffball mushrooms
Officinalis describes puffballs as an entirely smooth and “super round, marshmallow-white mushroom,” with a feta-like interior (as opposed to the powdery interior some mushrooms have). Their stems, which Officinalis says look like “fine, little anchors to the ground,” almost appear unnoticeable and disappear underneath the bulk of the mushroom.
You’ll mostly find puffballs in fields located in especially wet areas throughout many parts of the country during the early fall, but Officinalis states they sometimes appear in late fall and early spring.
Warning: When foraging, it’s important to maintain caution over what you put in your mouth. Edible puffballs have a completely white interior, says Officinalis, and other kinds of puffballs have a dark inside and shouldn’t be eaten.
Cooking with puffball mushrooms
According to Officinalis, cooking with puffballs is a lot like cooking with tofu, given the mushroom’s dense consistency. “The texture [of puffballs] outweighs the flavor profile. It makes them a very versatile mushroom,” Officinalis says.
She also explains that puffballs soak up flavor really well and can taste sweet or savory, depending on how they’re seasoned. Dry out the puffballs and use them as a soup thickener or gravy, or simply slice them like a loaf of bread and saute them to maintain that same feta-like consistency. “[The puffball] holds up really well in a saute pan,” Officinalis says. “It’s a really unique texture.”
Quick tip: If foraging isn’t for you, you can cultivate your own puffball mushrooms at home with water, a clean container, and molasses.
Storing puffball mushrooms
There are a few options when it comes to storing puffball mushrooms. One is to slice and dehydrate the puffballs in a solar or kitchen dehydrator, drying rack, or by cooking them in the oven at a low temperature. This will suck out the moisture and allow them to be stored indefinitely, so long as they’re kept in an airtight or vacuum-sealed container.
When you need to cook with them again, rehydrate them by allowing them to soak in broth or water and then dry sauteing them to cook out a bit of the liquid.
The other option is to store them fresh in a brown paper bag in the fridge for 7 to 10 days, or saute them in oil, store in some tupperware, and freeze them in their cooked state.
With a distinct soccer ball-like size and shape, giant puffball mushrooms are relatively easy to find in the open, grassy fields where they’re most common.
Their tofu-like texture and ability to soak up flavors makes them a versatile ingredient to cook with or season. To maintain the thick consistency of puffballs, simply saute them with your choice of spices.
As with anything when foraging, it’s important to maintain caution when determining what is or isn’t safe to eat. Edible puffballs are entirely white on the inside and outside, while non-edible puffballs will have dark interiors. Be sure to extensively research and observe any plant you’re looking to forage before taking it home to cook with.