Giant Puffball Mushrooms

Scientific Name: Calvatia gigantea
Abundance: rare
What: white flesh
How: cooked
Where: woods, fields,
When: winter, spring
Nutritional Value: minor
Dangers: Always be 100% certain on your identification of mushrooms


Growth Form: Calvatia gigantea, also known as the giant puffball, large, irregular spheres which lacks a distinct stem and grows attached to the ground by a cord.

Cap Shape and Size: The fruitbody is large, irregular globe or ball-shaped, 8-12 inches or more across, and 5.5-10 inches or more high, changing from white to yellow or olive-brown with maturity.

Gills or Pores: No gills are present.

Stipe Characteristics: Not present, but sometimes attached to the ground by a cord; cord approximately 2.5 inches long & 0.8 inches wide.

Odor: Mild and not unpleasant.

Bruising: Does not bruise when scratched or pressed.

Spore Color: Olive brown.

Substrate and Habitat: Saprobic, growing in nutrient-rich areas such as roadside verges, deciduous forests, woodland edges, and meadows.

Other Characteristics: The interior of the mushroom is completely white when young. Interior turns a yellowish green as it matures due to formation of spores, starting at the center of the fruitbody. 

Giant Puffball in woodland clearing.
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Underside of Giant Puffball. They have no gills, pores, or stem.
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Cutting the above mushroom in half top to bottom, the yellowish interior reveals it's past time to eat it.
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Another Giant Puffball. This one is lumpy and misshapen but still really big!
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Cutting it open reveals the entire interior is a uniform, creamy white color so it's still good to eat!
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

This is what it should look like inside if you're going to eat it.
Mushroom - Puffball

Check out this monster!
Mushroom - Puffball

An old Giant Puffball, already going to spore stage.
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Tearing open the old Giant Puffball. It released a big cloud of spores.
Mushroom - Giant Puffball

Walking across a field or woods you spot what looks like a somewhat deflated soccer ball...or a bleached human skull laying in the grass and leaf litter. Touching it reveals a rubbery surface over a spongy interior. You've just found a Giant Puffball! These are pretty rare in Texas, being only found in a few counties in central Texas. They prefer cool weather so look in winter and early spring.

Texas has plenty of smaller puffballs such as Vascellum curtisii, Scleroderma texense, Gymnopilus spectabilis, Lycoperdon pyriforme, and others but none of these get much bigger than a lime and most are smaller than that. Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea) is in a humongous size class all its own.

When collecting a Giant Puffball to eat you must always cut it in half top to bottom to make sure:
A. It's creamy white all the way through. No sign of yellow or brown which indicate it's already making spores which will make you ill.
B. There are no immature gills or an outline of a traditional mushroom hidden in the mushroom. Seeing either indicates you do NOT have an edible puffball but rather a young, deadly Amanita or other dangerous mushroom that looks like a puffball but matures into a normal "toadstool" shape.

This looked like a puffball but cutting it in half revealed immature gills as described above in B. This is NOT a puffball mushroom!!
Mushroom Deathcap

When cooking Giant Puffballs think of them as a chunk of tofu-like matter. The favored way of preparing them is cut them into 1/2" thick slices, batter them with milk, salt, & flour, then fry them in hot oil until golden brown. You can also thinly-slice them followed by sautéing them in butter and some garlic. Good Lord, y'all have no idea how hungry I get when working on this blog!

Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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