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The Giant Puffball

All Areas > Food & Drink > Wild Food Foraging

Author: Steven Hawley, Posted: Monday, 24th August 2015, 08:00

I was six years old when I first introduced myself to wild mushrooms. My neighbour and I were playing in a nearby field when we stumbled across a patch of fresh fungi. Drawing childlike logical conclusions, we decided that they looked like the type our mothers brought home from the shop. From that point on we dared each other to try one, a dare that my then friend braved. After he chomped down on that white rocket shaped shroud we heard the shrill cry of his mother who had been watching us sporadically from afar. The look of hatred she gave me as she gathered up her son and rushed him to hospital is still vivid in my mind. From that moment on I have, and always will, avidly avoid picking my own wild mushrooms. That is, of course, with one exception.

Big and alien looking
The Giant Puff ball, Latin name Calvatia Gigantea, is my own personal holy grail in foraging. I have yet to stumble across any but they are so big and alien looking I would trust my ability to identify this fungus on sight and happily take it home. They are large, about the size of a football or much bigger and are pure white all the way through. Imagine a massive ball of mozzarella and you’re about there. As they mature they begin to turn yellow then brown and at this stage can cause stomach upsets or worse.

If this now sounds too risky to forage, good. Paranoia always pays when it comes to picking mushrooms. That being said, they are perfectly edible so long as they are pure white all the way through and have no gills like those found on the underside of typical shop bought mushrooms. Cut into the mushroom to check.

Shallow fry a thick slice in garlic butter for a simple meal. If you do happen to find some, be sure to let me know on Twitter – @PottyWhite! As a rule, I advise leaving any fungus well alone. In fact, I strongly encourage it as it’s too easy to kill yourself if you make a mistake. My neighbour was fine by the way!

If you’re not 100% sure that the plant you’re picking is safe for human consumption, don’t pick it. If you’re prone to food allergies, or pregnant, always seek medical advice before consuming anything foraged in the wild.

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