Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Edibility of Puffballs: An Attempt to Try Something New

Over the years I have read various accounts about puffball mushrooms.  Some kinds are supposed to be edible when young.  Others or overly mature individuals don’t even think about eating.  In July a crop of puffballs appeared in our front yard.  They were on the small side and had a rough, white exterior.  Based on images I found online, they appeared to be a Lycoperdon species, perhaps the gem-studded puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum).  I picked one and it had a pleasant smell.  So why not try to eat one?  That’s a bit like saying “Hey watch this”!

Retired University of Florida mycologist Dr. Jim Kimbrough once told me to parboil mushrooms of unknown edibilty, just to lessen any possible poison.  So I cut the puffball in half from top to bottom.  It was very white inside.  So far, so good.  I placed the two halves in a small pot of water and adjusted the gas flame to medium.  The two pieces of puffball floated like they were made of Styrofoam.  Even after boiling for 10 minutes, they still floated as before.   I cooled one of the halves.  The lower “stem” part definitely looked cooked, but the rest did not show much change.  I ate the piece of puffball plain.  No butter.  No salt.  It did not have much taste.

Then we had dinner and all seemed to be going well.  However, about an hour and a half later, I had to run to toilet.  There wasn’t any nausea, or stomach ache problem, or anything else.  I just had to poop really bad.  The poop moved rapidly from intestine to toilet.  After that, all else was okay.  I did not feel sick in any way.  Nothing else happened.  My liver was not destroyed and I did not die an agonizing death several days later.  But be careful when eating wild mushrooms!

Based on this very personal experience, I would not recommend eating gem-studded puffballs.  Perhaps there is some medicinal value though, like if you’re not getting enough fiber?

Below:  A clump of puffballs as they age.  Photos taken 1-2 days apart.  

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