These Giant Puffball Mushrooms Look Like Volleyballs, But Are Totally Edible
Their actual name is straight-up “giant puffball mushrooms,” or calvatia gigantea, and foragers, home cooks, chefs, and the environmentally curious alike are all talking about them on TikTok right now. If you grew up near a woodsy area, you may recognize them right away, while others may be scratching their heads at the cartoon nature of it all.
For Randy Feltis of Ontario, Canada, it was the former. The chef and TikToker remembers kicking the mushrooms around on the school playground until they broke apart into small pieces. If I didn’t know any better, I would mistake a giant puffball mushroom for a misplaced volleyball, too. But because Randy grew up on a farm, he ate them with his family, slicing them thin and then pan frying.
“I don’t really remember them being great,” he said, laughing. “Definitely edible. My dad would say ‘Well, we eat it once a year because we find them but we don’t really care to do it more than that.’”
The giant puffball mushroom has been gaining traction on TikTok due to the popularity of foraging content during COVID; videos with the #giantpuffball has almost seven million views). Plus, Randy isn’t a kid anymore, and his TikTok has quite a large following. His account, Katherine Wants, is all about feeding his wife his delicious creations, and she had never had a puffball before.
It happened 🙁 A hard no #puffball #mushroom #ohno #katherinewants
“I really wanted to play with the texture, and this one was super big which made it a lot softer than an average size one,” he said of the puffball mushroom his father found this year. “So I thought I’d go the opposite way, go thicker, and then just hit it with more butter. Butter is always good for mushrooms.”
Unfortunately, his wife Katherine didn’t like it, which was remarkably the first time that had happened in all the times Randy’s cooked for her. So are they really worth cooking?
Dr. Gordon Walker, a Fungi phenologist, photographer, and TikToker, said a giant puffball has the texture of a savory marshmallow. He recommends cooking it katsu-style—sliced thin, breaded, and fried.
“It’s soft and dissolves in your mouth,” he said. “It doesn’t have a whole lot of texture or flavor of its own, but it takes on the textures and flavors or whatever you cook it with.”
Giant puffball mushrooms can be found all over the country, but mostly in the midwest from the summer until about October. They do have smaller cousins, but they aren’t nearly as recognizable. “You’ll often find them on forest floors where there’s a lot of organic matter that’s decaying,” Gordon said. He also advising checking fields with grass so thick that it has matter decaying underneath.
The good thing about puffball mushrooms is they are easy to identify, and unlike other mushrooms, they don’t have a toxic lookalike. “I think that the size, the color—just everything about them—looks so alien that people get really fascinated when they see something like that,” said Gabrielle Cerberville, a foraging TikToker. “They can’t believe that something like that grew there.”
Gabrielle has posted several cooking recommendations for these volleyball-like fungi, including puffball curry, puffball pizza crust, and tofu dupes.
Puffball curry! #foragedrecipe #foragersoftiktok #mushroom #giantpuffball #giantpuffballmushroom #puffball #foragedfood #wildfood #foraging #mushroom #mushroomedu
“I went thinner to try to hide the texture,” he said. “And then we went crispier with the pork panko breadcrumbs.” She still didn’t like it…which is okay! Giant puffball mushrooms are not everyone’s thing. No one can argue, however, that they aren’t one of the coolest things to look at or come across in the forest.
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