Featured Fungi – The Giant Puffball, Calvatia gigantea

The end of January is upon us and there is barely a mushroom in sight. The drought of new photos has forced me to look back into my recent photo archives to discuss a unique mushroom that I found in October 2015. I was walking in the woods in a small park on my birthday. I was next to a playground and saw what looked like volleyballs strewn over one section of the woods. I wondered why someone had left them there. As I walked closer, I realized that I had actually found a mushroom called Calvatia gigantea or The Giant Puffball.

I am sure that I am not alone in the destruction that I caused to these and other puffball mushrooms when I found them as a kid. They practically called out to me, asking me to kick them as far as I could. As an adult, I have learned that they have a much more delicious use. If they are young enough, these giant puffballs are edible.

The key to determining if they are edible is to slice them in half. If they are pure white throughout the solid center, then they are fresh enough to eat. If they have begun to yellow/brown, then they are not edible. I found that they also have a smell that is similar to garlic when they are too mature to eat.

To prepare them for cooking, simply wash the dirt off the outside of the mushroom and slice them into 3/4″ thick slices. Peel the outer layer off (reference the photo above). Melt some butter in the microwave and then spread it over both sides of each slice with a basting brush. You can either grill them or pan sear them. I would recommend grilling them because it allows the moisture to evaporate from them as they are cooking. Pan searing retains too much moisture and they don’t have the crusty texture that I was looking for.

Once they are grilled or seared, you have two choices; make a sweet dish or make a savory dish. I tried both options. Believe it or not, you can use these slices as a substitute for bread when making french toast. I tried this and it was surprisingly really good.  My preferred option is using them as substitutes for mini-pizza crusts. I spread tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni on top of each slice and then baked them in the oven. It was AMAZING! I also learned that in a 100 gram sample, there are 44 grams of protein.

You can read more about them at http://www.mushroomexpert.com/calvatia_gigantea.html.

(Regarding edibility: Please reference my disclaimer on the front page of my website)

 

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