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GIANT, GEM-STUDDED and PEAR-SHAPED PUFFBALLS
Scientific names: Langermannia gigantea, Lycoperdon perlatum, L. pyriforme, and others


IMPORTANT NOTICE
The TEXT on this Webpage regarding
EDIBLE WILD MUSHROOMS
is as important to your SAFETY as the photographs!

IF IN DOUBT, THROW THE MUSHROOM OUT!

I assume responsibility for the accuracy of information provided at americanmushrooms.com regarding edible wild mushrooms. However, I cannot assume responsibility for the integrity of your use of the information I present here regarding edible wild mushrooms. It is up to you to exercise your own best judgement in the event that you choose to consume edible wild mushrooms. Specifically, it is encumbent upon you to read all the text presented here that relates to the particular edible wild mushroom species involved to ensure that you have effectively ruled out dangerous poisonous/toxic wild mushrooms. Hurriedly comparing wild mushroom specimens to photographs of known edible wild mushrooms in hopes of determining that they are indeed the edible species can readily be FATAL!
 
Keep in mind that some of these pages include photographs of poisonous mushrooms which resemble edible wild mushroom species; again, reading the accompanying text and applying that information is absolutely vital to your safety!

 
Note that even with some of the best, safest, most popular edible wild mushroom species, it is possible for an individual human being to have an allergic reaction to a particular species. This happens with the grocery-store button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), it happens with edible wild morel mushrooms, and it happens with strawberries.
 
It is also possible for illness to result from consuming mushrooms that are decaying, contaminated by pollution, or otherwise not in good condition. Before perusing the section of this Webpage that presents photographs of and text about edible wild mushrooms (and some of their toxic "look-alikes"!), you must read "The Mycophagist's Ten Commandments," which explains several hazards and provides advice on how to avoid those hazards.
 
Most importantly, be doubtful and be skeptical: Use the mushroom's description to seek evidence that the mushroom you've found is NOT the edible wild mushroom species whose photograph it resembles!
 
David Fischer, Author of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America (1992, Univ. of Texas Press)
 

The best mushroom books are available in the AmericanMushrooms.com Bookstore

                                       


GIANT, GEM-STUDDED and PEAR-SHAPED PUFFBALLS
Scientific names: Langermannia gigantea, Lycoperdon perlatum, L. pyriforme, and others

Image - Photo of the edible Giant Puffball (Langermannia gigantea)
Image - Photo of the edible Giant Puffball (Langermannia gigantea)
Giant Puffball (Langermannia gigantea); photo is about one-third actual size.
Photo by Roy Waidler.
Another Giant Puffball, photo about one-fourth actual size.
"Creased" specimens such as this are common. Photo by Roy Waidler.

The Giant Puffball (Langermannia gigantea; see photos above) is one of North America's best-known edible wild mushrooms, particularly among farmers and other country folk. But there are several good puffball species; read on!
 
Some find the flavor of puffballs bland to mild, while plenty of others (myself included) consider them quite rich. Sliced and simply fried with a little garlic and black pepper, I think puffballs' flavor is wonderful. Mycochefs have a field day with them; Puffball Parmesan is an especially popular recipe.
 
Puffballs are different than most mushrooms in that they lack gills or any other exterior spore-producing structures. They produce their spores internally (note: the spore-producing interior of a puffball is called the gleba) and then releasing them in astronomical numbers. The Giant Puffball, in particular, is a reproductive wonder: Specimens can attain diameters of two to three feet or more, and a single specimen has been estimated to produce as many as nine trillion spores!
 
Before the spores are produced, the interior of a puffball is solid and white, composed of flesh that gets less and less dense as the mushroom matures and minute air pockets form throughout. In my experience, the denser the flesh of a puffball, the richer the flavor. I have harvested, cooked and enjoyed specimens of the Giant Puffball that were only four or five inches in diameter, quite dense, and absolutely delicious. In each case, I could have returned a few days later and the puffball probably would have doubled or tripled its diameter—but the flesh would have been far more porous. At that point, puffballs absorb the cooking oil or other frying medium like a sponge, so frying in the true sense becomes impossible. And once the gleba starts to mature, the interior flesh of a puffball becomes yellowish to greenish, at which stage it is no longer fit for consumption.
 
The vital field character of the Giant Puffball (and several sibling species in genus Calvatia) is its size: To rule out all other mushrooms, it should be at least four inches in diameter, growing on the ground (in the woods or on a lawn), roughly spherical as viewed from above (it may have an enlarged base, as shown in the photos), and the interior should be composed of solid, white, homogenous flesh.

Image - Photo of the edible Purple-spored Puffball
		(Calvatia cyathiformis)
Image - Photo of the edible
		Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis)
The Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis). About one-third actual size.
Photo by David W. Fischer.
A Purple-spored Puffball with an unusually tall "stalk." About one-third
actual size. Photo by Wendy Paquette.

The Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis; see photos above and below left) is, in some areas, as common as the Giant Puffball, and many people who are oblivious of the difference between the two species; fortunately, they're both fine edibles, as is a third somewhat less common species, the Skull-shaped Puffball (Calvatia craniformis, see photo, below right).

Image - Photo of the edible Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis)
Image - Photo of the edible
		Skull-shaped Puffball (Calvatia craniformis)
The Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis). About one-half actual size.
Photo by Lewis Tester.
The Skull-shaped Puffball (Calvatia craniformis). About one-third actual size.
Photo by David W. Fischer.

 

Smaller Edible Puffballs: USE CAUTION!

Image - Photo of the edible Gem-studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)
Image - Photo of the edible Gem-studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)
The Gem-studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum). Slightly smaller
than actual size. Photo by David W. Fischer.
A pair of Gem-studded Puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum). Slightly larger
than actual size. Photo by David W. Fischer.

There are also some smaller edible puffballs, including the handsomely decorated Gem-studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum, see photos above). Extra caution must be observed when collecting small puffballs for human consumption, so read all the text below and pay close attention!

The Gem-studded Puffball's major hallmark is its covering of tiny, erect, granular "spines" that wipe off readily when the mushroom is handled. It grows on the ground, in the woods, and does not grow mostly in clusters. Each specimen should be cut in half lengthwise and closely examined to make sure it is not a button-stage Amanita (see photo below, and read this entire page!).

The Pear-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme, see photos below) grows on wood, predominately in clusters. Sometimes a single large fallen tree trunk will yield several hundred of these table-tennis-ball-sized puffballs, and they often appear on the same stump or log for several years in succession. Some specimens may be adorned with minute "spines" or granules similar to those seen on the Gem-studded Puffball, but usually not so conspicuously so. As with the Gem-studded puffball, each specimen should be cut in half lengthwise and closely examined to make sure it is not a button-stage Amanita to be on the safe side, even though Amanita mushrooms do not grow on dead wood.

Image - Photo of the edible Pear-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)
Image - Photo of the edible Peaar-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)
Pear-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Slightly smaller
than actual size. Photo by David W. Fischer.
More Pear-shaped Puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Slightly larger
than actual size. Photo by David W. Fischer.

 

DANGEROUS LOOK-ALIKE SPECIES!

Image - Photo of the poisonous Pigskin Poison Puffball (Scleroderma citrinum)
Image - photo of deadly poisonous Destroying Angel mushroom (Amanita virosa) - button stage
Pigskin Poison Puffball
(Scleroderma citrinum).
Approximately actual size.
Destroying Angel mushroom
(Amanita virosa) — button stage
(lengthwise section)
Approximately actual size.

Again—and I repeat this intentionally!—it is absolutely vital that puffballs, especially the small ones, be cut in half and the interior closely examined to rule out the presence of stalk, gills, cap, or other structural tissue differentiations that could indicate that the mushroom is something other than a true puffball. The big concern here is that button-stage specimens of the deadly poisonous Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa, see photo, above right) and Death Cap (A. phalloides) mushrooms look very similar to puffballs—and that's a mistake no one can afford to make! Note the visible differentiation of the gills in the photo of the Destroying Angel button on the right; DO NOT EAT ANY PUFFBALLS THAT SHOW SUCH DIFFERENTIATION WHEN YOU SLICE THEM OPEN!
 
The possibility of confusion also exists with the Pigskin Poison Puffball (Scleroderma citrinum, see photo, above left). This mushroom, while not deadly, is known to cause gastrointestinal symptoms in those foolish enough to eat it. It can be readily distinguished from the real thing, though: First, it has a thick, tough, rindlike exterior; second, all but the smallest, tiniest immature specimens are purplish inside, not pure white.

There's a lot more information about edible Puffball Mushrooms
and other choice edible wild mushroom species in my best-selling book,
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America.


AMERICA'S BEST, SAFEST
EDIBLE WILD MUSHROOMS!

HEN OF THE WOODS (also known as MAITAKE or SHEEPSHEAD MUSHROOM)
Scientific name: Grifola frondosa

BEAR'S HEAD TOOTH MUSHROOM and equally delectable sibling species
Scientific name: Hericium americanum, H. coralloides, H. erinaceus, etc.

GEM-STUDDED, PEAR-SHAPED, and GIANT PUFFBALLS
Scientific names: Lycoperdon perlatum, L. pyriforme, Langermannia gigantea and others

THE SULPHUR SHELF or CHICKEN MUSHROOM
Scientific name: Laetiporus sulphureus

THE SHAGGY MANE MUSHROOM
Scientific name: Coprinus comatus

THE YELLOW and BLACK MORELS
Scientific names: Morchella esculenta and M. elata

THE BLACK TRUMPET and HORN OF PLENTY Mushrooms
Scientific names: Craterellus fallax and C. cornucopioides

THE SWEET TOOTH or HEDGEHOG Mushroom
Scientific names: Hydnum repandum and H. umbilicatum


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aboutmushroom basicscoolest mushroomsedible mushrooms 1,046 mushroom photos!HOMElawn & garden mushroomsmushroom linksmedicinal mushrooms
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To contact David Fischer, send an e-mail to…
to contact David Fischer, send an e-mail to 'mycology@aol.com'

All content at americanmushrooms.com is Copyright 2006, 2007 by David W. Fischer. All rights reserved.