I have been reading about the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) over the last few weeks just to be ready for the season, and here it is! Anyways, all my textbooks describe it as having a mild nutty flavour and smell. I have a comment to make about this. Last night I decided to fry up a couple slabs of giant puffball, from a specimen I collected that was about the size of a baseball. I peeled the rind, and was left with a ball of pure white meat. Initially I was taken back by the strong nutty aroma, but decided to cook it anyway. I fried it in butter, sprinkled salt, pepper, and garlic powder (granulated) on the 1/4" thick slices. I let them fry for about 5 mins per side, added a bit of water to deglaze and served them up. I noticed a very slight nutty flavour that was pleasant, and the texture of a fried egg or tofu. It was quite good.
Today I did the same, except I cut the slabs about 1/2" thick. The puffball was about the size of a bowling ball, and it had been in the fridge for 2 days. The inside was snow white and firm, but the nutty smell was much stronger. This time after frying them, I put them on a baking sheet with some pasta sauce and Parmesan and baked them for 30 mins. This time, I wasn’t very happy with the flavour, the nutty flavour was so strong and potent, that I had to spit it out.
Has anyone else encountered this with giant puffballs? Does the flavour and smell get more potent with age? I’m interested to hear comments on what you think of the giant puffball, some say its a delicacy, but I’m not sure I agree lol.
Where do you live? Ours come up in August. They’re rare here, so I wouldn’t harvest them.
As the spore mass changes with age you can be pretty sure that also the taste of it is dependent on the age. I read that older specimens also unpleasantly smell like urine. I never tried the giant puffball but have some experience with smaller puffball species. From my experience, when they’re young they don’t taste like much (at least to me) and since the taste of young giant puffball is also described as mild I would expect them to be very similar to other puffball species. But everyone perceives taste and smell differently anyway.
It could also be that the spore mass changes more quickly once the mushroom is harvested and kept in a fridge for two days.
I’m surprised, though, that you could still taste the mushroom after putting pasta sauce and parmesan on it. Then it must really have been a very strong flavor.
just gonna put the mandatory warning
DO NOT EAT UNKNOWN STUFF YOU FIND ON THE (FOREST) FLOOR
and, please check whether gathering fungi is legal in your area
Giant puffballs are hard to mistake for anything else (small ones, maybe). I got one from northern Illinois last week and cooked some with scrambled eggs and fried some with parmesan breaded crust. Mine was large - the size of a bowling ball – and just starting to turn green at the base inside. I cut that away used some of the white. It had a pretty mild flavor.
These links might help if you are foraging:
I know what it is, I’ve been studying mushrooms for 9 years. Its just my first experience cooking with one. Thanks for the concern though.
Durham region in Ontario Canada.
;) just wanted to make sure everyone stays safe. liability and all that.
I’ve never tried it, but I remember growing up in the Pacific Northwest and seeing hundreds of puffball mushrooms crop up each year. Used to step on them as a kid, I remember the smell well! Those very fresh specimens smelled really pleasant to me, but I have definitely heard of mushrooms getting intense and unpleasant with age.
As a child where I lived in WV, we had a lot of puffball mushrooms. The smaller ones were not so overpowering. The giant ones could be extremely mushroomy–not a favorite! Even onions didn’t tame them. Here in SC I see plenty, but would never eat them because of all the dogs here that use the outdoors.
I enjoy them! I have sliced them into slabs, grilled or sautéed them, then put gravy over them. Kind of like mushroom “steaks”. Yum.
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