Wild Edibles: How to Eat the Giant Puffball

by Erich

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!

Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

My first introduction to the Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea) was as a kid roaming through the nearby woods and coming across these big brown balls in the woods (they turn brown in their non-edible spore stage).

My friends and I called them ‘smokebombs’ for obvious reasons — when you stomp on them in their spore stage they explode in a giant cloud of spores. It wasn’t until later that I read that breathing in those spores wasn’t the healthiest thing to do but, hey, as kids we had a lot of fun.

In my college years as I was getting more involved in improving my wilderness survival skills I came across this plant in one of my wild-edible guides and up until then did not realize you could eat them…man, did I miss a delicous wild edible all those years!

Although I have pretty decent wild-plant knowledge and identification skills, as a rule I tend to stay away from eating any mushroom — even if I know that they are edible. That rule applies to all fungi I encounter to this day except for four: the Morel mushroom, Chicken-of-the-Woods, Hen-of-the-Woods, and this mushroom, the Giant Puffball.

How to Identify the Giant Puffball

The Giant Puffball is one of the most easily recognized and easy-to-identify wild edible mushrooms. There really isn’t anything else that looks like it (except maybe a softball or volleyball you may encounter in the woods). For that reason they are an excellent edible mushroom for beginners to get comfortable with.

Here’s what you want to look out for:

size and shape: On average, giant puffballs can range anywhere from golfball size to volleyball size (some are even larger!) and given their ball shape they can be sometimes mistaken for those balls as well! For the most part they are spherical but you will find anomalies that are mishapen.
soft, completely white center with no gills: Be sure there are no gills! This is probably the most important identification trait since some poisonous mushrooms (particularly the amanita species) — when young — look like small puffballs. However, when opened there are gills (and sometimes a stem) inside.

Where and When to Find Giant Puffballs

Season and Range

The best time to find giant puffballs is from late summer through mid-fall anywhere in the U.S.

Location

You’ll want to look for giant puffballs on the ground in well-fertilized fields and pastures or open woods. They also grow in urban areas where there is bare earth and where people tend to discard their trash.

How to Eat the Giant Puffball

Giant puffballs are a great addition to any meal or can be a meal in itself eaten raw or cooked.

Here are two of my favorite ways of enjoying this wild edible:

Fried in Butter

This is a delicious way of eating puffballs. You simply slice them into 1/2 inch slices and fry them in butter:

Made into Tempura

Another favorite method of mine is to fry them in a tempura batter. The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour (sifted is ideal)

Mix the above ingredients, dip some puffball chunks in the batter and fry in your oil of choice…yumm:

I like eating these with a bit of maple syrup. The breakfast of champions:

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33 Comments»

Comment by Cheryl
2012-08-28 15:53:15

They also dehydrate nicely for use later in soups, etc. Just slice and dehydrate.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-28 16:21:36

Great idea Cheryl. I’ll have to try that out.

 
 
Comment by Chuck Kimberl
2012-08-28 16:21:36

I learned about giant puff balls almost thirty years ago here in Kentucky and they are indeed edible and a very tasty treat. I have eaten them over the years and fried in butter is my favorite. They are surprisingly rich however. A single puffball will make a meal.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-28 16:25:32

You’re absolutely right Chuck. They are really filling (especially when fried in butter).

 
 
Comment by Arthur
2012-08-28 16:22:08

Thanks, these things grow in my yard during a wet spell sometimes. I’ve never tried eating any mushroom except for morels. I’m gonna keep this and compare your pics with these mushrooms next time I see em. I know it’s th same thing. They turn brown and then dust when they are kicked. Thanks.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-28 16:26:58

You’re welcome Arthur. Just be sure to cut them in half to ensure they are completely uniform and white throughout (no gills and no stem)

 
 
Comment by Lothario
2012-08-28 18:00:44

I just subscribed and I’m liking this sit already. I was just thinking about what kinds of plants are edible to expand my survival knowledge.

 
Comment by William
2012-08-28 18:30:43

Thanks for the good article. I have eaten many puffballs in just the manner you described. However, it must be mentioned that some people may be sensitive to puffballs, and that some minor toxins may have more severe effects when combined with alcoholic drinks. If unsure about a particular wild mushroom, it is always best to err on the side of safety. Do not eat what you are not positively sure of, otherwise you run the risk of illness or a slow, painful death. Puffballs are easily identified by the method you describe.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-29 09:37:30

Well put William. Thanks!

 
 
Comment by Susan
2012-08-28 19:01:24

Thank YOU!! I love Mushrooms, of just about any sort. Does this Puff Ball not have a stem then? It’s just a round sphere on the ground? Does the bottom of the ball adhere to the earth or leaves? Are certain types of terrain better for finding it in the wild? Wet or does it matter?
Again,
Thank you for all that you share with us!
Sue and family

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-29 09:35:42

It does adhere to the ground via a small attachment however it is not a noticeable “stem”

 
 
Comment by Chartsky
2012-08-28 19:18:10

Thanks! Another one to add to my list just in case . . .

 
Comment by Clara
2012-08-28 21:02:29

Don’t wait ’til just in case. These are really good. And you can’t buy them.

 
Comment by LaRene
2012-08-28 21:45:01

Thanks for that idea…can’t wait to find one this year to try it on.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-29 09:32:56

If you do, let us know how it goes.

 
 
Comment by Kathy
2012-08-29 00:30:47

I have never seen one myself, but my Dad remembered them as a child. One day while picking berries in Tennessee, he came upon what he thought was a puffball. Poking it with a stick was a mistake, however. The puffball turned out to be a swarming nest of stinging insects.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-29 09:32:10

ouch…

 
 
Comment by Tom Linden
2012-08-29 04:09:28

I have eaten them many times and i treat them as steak. Thickly slice them say into 1 inch slices and fry them like steak then add a fried egg on top, go on beat that then.

I also make a soup with garlic and a little cream.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-29 09:31:04

Sounds fantastic Tom. I’m going to try that with the egg.

 
 
Comment by Jason
2012-08-30 08:37:08

Okay, so what would you compare the taste of the puffball itself to? I’m not a mushroom fan, and the only morel I’ve had was microwaved, which put me off of those, but I am told morels taste like more of a meat, than anything. Do puffballs taste like a meat?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-30 09:27:55

Hey Jason,

Yeah, the puffball taste actually very mild for a mushroom. And when you fry it it actually has the texture of soft cheese.

 
 
Comment by Green Eyed Jinn
2012-09-05 12:20:07

Any idea of what the calorie content is for one of these? (per unit?)

 
Comment by Steven
2012-09-12 21:42:01

so can these be eaten raw?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-14 14:28:17

Yes.

 
 
Comment by Tim
2012-09-12 23:15:28

At a mycological exhibition, I heard of larg puffballs sliced, roastd till stil ad then used as a pizza crust.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-14 14:43:28

Hey Tim,

Yeah, I’ve seen similar recipes online but haven’t yet tried it.

 
 
Comment by Steven
2012-09-14 20:23:11

“yes” dosent give one much information. to eat it raw, is there any special preperation, does it have to be peeled…or do you just eat it like an apple?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-14 22:15:49

🙂 Hey Steven, no special preparation. I’ve had it raw peeled, not peeled, washed and not washed right from the ground while out in the bush.

I prefer the taste/texture of it cooked though(not big into raw mushrooms).

 
 
Comment by Jean
2012-09-26 19:27:04

I have eaten this mushroom. However I think that the only part that causes irritation is the outer skin. Not all people have reactions to the skin,but I fry my mushrooms then peel off the skin. This mushroom is very rich and filling.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-27 10:12:39

Thanks for the heads up Jean. I haven’t had any ill effects with the skin but that doesn’t mean others won’t.

 
 
Comment by Zach
2013-02-13 12:09:34

Thank you for the great article on eating puffballs i am going to go on this website everyday..for the rest of my life.

 
Comment by Leonard M. Urban
2013-03-07 23:41:59

I first read about the edibility of puffballs in the novel “The Far Frontier” when I was a boy of 8.

 
Comment by Ramon
2015-10-08 23:22:44

Just FYI there is a fungus that can grow on puffballs in North America… This doesn’t spoil it, these are edible too according to field guides. Never tried it so research it yourself.

 
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