(Calvatia gigantea, Langermannia gigantea and Lycoperdon species) The puffball is found in several species growing in fields, hedgerows, woodlands, and gardens, often near nettles. This mushroom is common in the temperate zones of both the North and Southern Hemispheres. When fully mature, the inside turns grey, then finally black. At this stage, it is toxic and should not be eaten. As the puffball dries out, it will emit a “puff” of spores – and, the spores are numerous. A Canadian expert once calculated that a ten-inch puffball could produce about seven trillion (7,000,000,000,000) spores and that, if each developed into a puffball the size of the parent, the combined mass would be 800 times the size of the earth. Normally, however, a puffball ranges in size from a mini-marshmallow to that of a beachball. The largest ever recorded was eight feet eight inches in diameter and weighed forty-eight pounds. They have a soft thin exterior and a tofu-mousse-like, white interior that absorbs flavours like a sponge so they can be made to taste like anything with which they are cooked – garlic, is a good example. Giant puffballs can be sliced like a loaf of bread.
Caution: Puffballs are toxic when mature. Only the pure white-centered puffballs should be eaten.