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How to cook a Giant Puffball

September 14, 2009

…by which I mean mushroom, not skirt. This morning I found three giant puffballs growing on the edge of a field, and decided to pick the best and bring it home to cook. We had puffballs growing in the same area 2 or 3 years ago, but that time I dithered until it was too late to eat them. This time, when I spotted those miraculous white bulges in the grass, I decided to sieze the day (despite the cautionary tale of Claudius and his ceps). Giant puffballs are unlike any other fungi so there is virtually no chance of mistaken identity. If in any doubt – or even if not, if you’re as cautious as me – check with a good book like Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’.

1. First find your puffball. Three days of sunshine meant perfect mushrooming conditions (they can get slimy and waterlogged in the rain). If you’ve seen them in previous years, they are likely to turn up in the same spot sooner or later: I’ve been keeping an eye on that patch of field for some time. Of the three I found today, the biggest – about the size of a watermelon – was old, leathery and brown, and released acrid clouds of olive-coloured ‘smoke’ (spoors) when tapped. (This is a great game as far as young children are concerned!)  Another was just past its best: white but split and browing on top. The third was perfect for eating: white, firm and round, with a fresh wholesome  ‘mushroomy’ smell.

2. Twist it gently out of the ground and brush off the worst of the earth and beasties. Woodlice and little worms like to burrow in to the puffball’s flesh but, if it’s young, they won’t have got far beyond the skin. Older puffballs come loose of their own accord and can roll about (another good game). Bring it home – not in a plastic bag, as it’ll go slimy very quickly. I forgot to weigh today’s find, but it was heavy enough to make my arm ache by the time we got home!

the puffball on the kitchen table, next to an apple from the garden

the puffball on the kitchen table, next to an apple from the garden

3. Trim off any dirty or insecty bits, rather than washing it – water will spoil the lovely bloom of the skin.

the bottom of the puffball has been nibbled by various creatures - best trim this bit off.

the bottom of the puffball has been nibbled by various creatures - best trim this bit off.

4. Peel off the outer skin – it will come away quite easily. Don’t peel any bits that you are not planning to eat at once, as it will keep better in its skin.

peeling the puffball

peeling the puffball

5. Slice it into steaks or dice it into smaller pieces as you wish. Heat a nob of butter in a frying pan, and toss the pieces in the butter for a few minutes until they are golden all over.

sizzle, sizzle - have you got the plates ready?!

sizzle, sizzle - have you got the plates ready?!

6. Toss in some chopped parsley, grate in a little lemon peel, add a twist of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. (Chopped bacon would be very good with it too, for carnivores.) Spoon it on to plates and eat it while it’s hot. It has a very delicate mushroomy flavour and a light, melting texture, almost like an omlette. There may be healthier ways of cooking it, but there can’t be many more delicious ways! What more satisfying meal can you have than something freshly foraged and simply cooked, eaten within an hour of growing.

Absolutely delicious!

Absolutely delicious!

And a pleasing postscript: the puffball was so enormous that three of us ate less than a third of it for lunch; so I took the rest down to the school gates in the afternoon and carved off chunks for some other mums who were brave enough to want to try it. The children were fascinated by the size of it. This one puffball, then, has provided meals for four families – and we still have a little left for our supper!

See also: Foraging is fun; Puffball season again

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Vicki permalink
    October 1, 2009 10:57 pm

    Izzy wants to know if the puffball mushroom is the biggest kind of mushroom in the world. We loved the pictures and the story of cooking and sharing it.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      October 7, 2009 10:11 pm

      Thank you for visiting! Izzy, that is a really interesting question. I don’t know if the giant puffball is the biggest kind of mushroom in the world – but I think it might be. Sometimes here we see groups of smaller kinds of fungi that are all clumped together to make a big mass – on a tree stump, for example – but I don’t know of any other single mushroom that grows as huge as this. They are as big as a basketball – and a lot tastier!

  2. September 1, 2010 8:03 pm

    Will be crawling round the countryside now in the hope of finding one!
    Seems you live in puffball heaven!

  3. September 13, 2010 8:19 pm

    well before school I went to the park and under
    one of the trees guess what I saw…
    a flying donkey whoooo, no only joking i saw LOADS
    and i mean loads of Gaint puffballs I took the biggest one home
    cooked it hoe you told me then ate it…

    it was delicious I could not belive how nice it was I just wanted
    more and more. then i felt sick and gave it to my friend(big mistake)
    the next day I thought hmm i want some puffball went downstairs
    then saw it was gone and then i killed myself (joke).

  4. December 4, 2010 2:48 am

    Thanks for this! I’ve been searching all over the web for the info.

  5. pat mcginn permalink
    September 23, 2011 3:57 pm

    puffball lasagna—–fry slices in garlic olive oil
    use in layers instead of noodles
    mushrooms wiil absorb flavors and melt in your mouth

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      September 24, 2011 5:40 pm

      That sounds delicious, Pat. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve just spotted another one, so puffball lasagna might be on the menu at Castle Beastie….

  6. September 22, 2012 12:32 am

    just found one today and cooked it with bacon bits and it was amazing as it reminded me of many years ago and had not had one for years. I love morels as well and have not found any this year.

    Mine was only the size of a baseball and so was very tender. Thanks for this site so I knew it was safe and how to cook it.
    linda
    gogreenwithme@iglide.net

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      September 23, 2012 11:24 pm

      Very happy to be useful, Linda. Glad you enjoyed your puffball!

  7. donna permalink
    September 20, 2013 2:19 am

    My son-in-law was given a realy big puffball and cooked it in garlic butter. Amazing!!! I don’t approve of lying but my granddaughters do not like mushrooms but after being told it was chicken they were asking for more. Just goes to show eh??

    • September 20, 2013 11:35 pm

      I can imagine puffball ‘meat’ being taken for chicken, especially in a garlicky sauce. The occasional white lie surely does no harm in coaxing children to try food that they otherwise would avoid. My dad made sure not to tell me what was in haggis until after I’d got a taste for it! :)

      • October 5, 2013 9:27 am

        Surely you know that a Giant Puffball is the larval stage of the Haggis…
        you are causing great damage to the Haggis breed by eating their young!!

        And on the subject of chicken…
        try Shaggy Inkcaps in a “vegetarian” chicken rissoto…
        you need to pick the larger caps just as the gills start to turn black…
        cut off the black ink bit and then you are left with a nice pink tinge to one end of the white “meat”…
        cut lengthwise into large strips…
        either give the strips a quick fry in butter, then fold them in quickly at the end…
        or just leave them aside until just before the end and fold them in then and let them warm through for a couple of minutes…
        the rest is just a case of making a rissoto with assorted veg and a veg stock cube… or for a real chickin’ flavour a Chiken OXO cube.

        Yesterday’s young French Haggis is awaiting treatment in the fridge!!
        This time, I am going to freeze some of the “tofu” chunks… this one is big enough to experiment with… at one foot across!!

  8. September 24, 2013 6:52 pm

    batter an bread crumbs puffball steaks, loverly

  9. October 2, 2013 6:59 pm

    How did you find out the information or was it handed down?

    • October 4, 2013 6:40 pm

      Good question, Donna. It was partly through checking ideas in books: Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’ is a good one. The actual cooking was more by instinct, like most of my cooking. Anyway, it worked!

  10. October 5, 2013 9:15 pm

    The ‘larval stage of the haggis’, drofmit4108: ha ha! Now you come to mention it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a baby haggis….!
    Thanks very much for your suggestion for cooking inkcaps too. We have an annual patch of them here, and I was wondering only today whether or not they were edible.

    • October 21, 2013 9:23 am

      Remember…
      Only the Lawyer’s Wig or Shaggy Ink Cap [Coprinus comatus] is edible and safe!!
      The other, Glossy Inkcap [Coprinus atramentarius], whilst edible, contains a substance akin to Antabuse…
      and causes violent reactions if consumed with alcohol…
      and whenever alcohol is consumed thereafter!!!
      In fact, they used to be fed to alcoholics… before Antabuse came along…
      use the Interweb to aid identification…
      here in France, we just take them along to the pharmacy!!

      As for the baby French Haggis…
      it froze very well and worked after…
      put into the dish at the end, whilst still frozen!

      The final bit… 7″x4″x4″ in size… has kept very well in the fridge!
      It will be sliced up today and frozen in slab form…
      they work very well as a “toast” in slabs…
      butter one side and whack under the pre-heated grill…
      until you see browning!
      turn over, do the same on the untoasted side… but add salt and pepper to the mix.
      I’ve spread them with Mushroom Toast Topper before now…
      but these will be for a future “brushetta” with some of my wife’s Roast Tomato and Cumin Chutney…
      recipe here [http://livingtoeat-pollygarter.blogspot.fr/2013/09/roasted-tomato-and-cumin-chutney.html]…
      almost mature now, but best for keeping much longer!!

      And the reason you don’t see many baby haggi is that…
      because they are in a non-moblie phase…
      them shaggy Highland coos keep treading on them!

  11. October 21, 2013 12:04 am

    found about 20 yesterday didnt know what to do with them .have been finding mytaki mushrooms the last 2 weeks ,love them more than morrels ,i know that is hard to believe .i think i will go puck a puffball and try it

  12. Garth permalink
    October 27, 2013 12:58 pm

    Got one at 10.00am . Garlic, leeks, pink firs and onions with slabs of mushroom. Strong in flavour. Stuffed.

  13. Sara Cumberland permalink
    August 24, 2014 3:42 pm

    Just tried our first Giant Puffball that we found down a country lane near our home. Very yummy!! 😄

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