Family Foraging: Giant Puffball Mushroom

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Giant Puffball

Calvatia Gigantea

Puffballs are practically unmistakable: they are large, ball-shaped mushrooms, which can grow to the size of a basketball or even bigger! Yet despite their size and shape, they can be hard to find. It is easy to get excited when you think you have found one growing, only to get closer and find out it is a soccer ball or a plastic bag.


Puffballs are irregularly shaped, but can be seen as roughly ball shaped, or like an egg or a football on its side. They have a smooth skin which some say feels a little like suede.


Their size can range between that of a grapefruit and a soccer ball. 

What to avoid

Some poisonous mushrooms can look like puffballs, but it is possible to distinguish by cutting into them.  A poisonous mushroom will look like a mushroom within a mushroom, whereas a puffball’s flesh is a constant and unbroken white all the way through. Puffballs also have no stalk.

Before you pick

Cut a small piece of the puffball before you pick it. If it has gone yellow or brown inside, this means it is no longer ripe and you should leave it as it will spore, which will make more yummy puffballs for the following year.

Where in the world?

Puffballs can be found throughout either temperate or cool-weather places in North America and Europe.  They are protected in parts of Europe such as Poland, Lithuania, and Norway. 

Where to find it locally

Puffballs grow on grassland and by the sides of roads, often near nettles. They are very hard to find, so rather than setting out specifically to look for one, just keep your eyes peeled whenever you are out and about. 

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Cover courtesy of Roost Books

From Family Foragingby David Hamilton © 2019 by David Hamilton. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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