Puffballs are a great beginner's edible mushroom as they are quite easy to ID due to them being squishy balls of white sponge covered with a tough skin, which sometimes contains tiny spines. Some, like the Giant Puffball, can grow pretty huge, but most are small-medium sized, and can be found growing on both living and dead wood, and in grass. For an ID, it's very important to cut them in half and inspect the insides - they should be soft and white, with a texture similar to mozzarella cheese. If the insides are yellow, brown or black, or contain slime or what looks like parts of an immature mushroom - it's not a puffbull and most likely not for eating, either.
The puffballs pictured here are Mosaic Puffballs - medium-sized, with a pretty reciprocating pattern on the tough outer skin, that "softens" as they grow and mature. Like other Puffballs, their spores mature inside them before being "puffed" out of the top in a cloud of dust. Yellow or brown insides means that the spores are starting to mature and make the fungi bitter and unpalatable, so make sure it's pure white.
If you cut a puffball open and it's black - it may be an Earthball, which are not for eating. If there's slime, or what looks like an immature mushroom inside, it could be a very young Amanita or Stinkhorn, so do check before cooking and eating. If you come across a very mature specimen it can be fun to "puff" out the spores, but do take care not to directly inhale the spores as they can sometimes make you ill if you breathe large quantities in.
Young Puffballs have a pleasant mushroom smell and mild taste, and have a tendency to turn slimy when cooked. Many people prefer to fry them in breadcrumbs before serving, or use them in omelettes or as a pasta substitute in lasagne. The tough outer skin should be removed before cooking.
🌳 Deciduous Woodland
🌲 Coniferous Woodland
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🔗 Can be found on both living and dead wood.
🌸🌞🍂❄️ Between April and November, but commonly in the Autumn months.
📈 Grow singly or in small groups, often on living or dead wood, or on meadows or grass verges.
🍄 No defined cap, but a round ball, covered in a tough skin. Some puffballs have tiny spines, or mosaic patterning. Vary in size depending on species, from 3-5 cm to 40cm+.
♊️ Tends not to have a stem, rather a small stalk connecting it to it's growing medium.
⚪️ Pure White, like mozzarella cheese.
Aroma / Taste
👃 Pleasant and mushroomy.
👅 Puffballs taste good, but have a tendency to turn slimy when cooked. They are best when breaded and fried or used in omelettes.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 Puffballs are very easy to ID due to their shape.
👀 The pure white flesh is also a key identifier.
⛔️ This fungi could be confused with the Common Earthball, Witch's Egg (immature Stinkhorn), or a very young Amanita species.
☠ The Common Earthball is a mildly toxic fungi that looks very similar to a Puffball, but the insides are always black.
☠ Amanitas are a family of mushrooms that are not recommended for beginners due to there being a number of highly toxic members. All Amanitas start life in a membrane than looks a little like an egg, and this egg could be confused with a Puffball. Upon cutting one open however, you would soon see that there is a developing mushroom inside, rather than the pure white mozarella flesh of a Puffball.
🧙♀️ Like Amanitas, Stinkhorns start life as an egg, known as a Witch's Egg, before sprouting out and becoming rather stinky, and rather rude looking! Cutting a Witch's Egg open would reveal some slime and an a green and white immature mushroom. Witch's Eggs however, are edible, if you're brave enough.
✅ It is very important to cut puffballs in half and inspect the insides - it should be pure white, like a ball of mozzarella cheese. If it's anything other than pure white, discard and don't eat it!
🍄 Fungi - Used in mushroom recipes.