Enough puff

I’m a very part-time forager, but if notice notice something wild-growing and edible whilst I’m out and about, I usually take advantage of it. During a walk with my daughters the other day we stumbled across some giant puffballs growing in the middle of a field. Giant puffballs, or Calvatia gigantea, are stalkless, globe shaped mushrooms that can grow very large indeed, although these were about the size of a cricket ball and were doing their best to hide in the long grass.

Puffballs are edible and are easy to identify. This is just as well since so many mushrooms  and fungi are poisonous while being very similar in appearance to their edible cousins.  Giant puffballs don’t have any lethal lookalikes, as far as I know – although I should add that I’m not an expert mycologist, and you should always take care to identify any fungi you intend to eat. Roger Phillips, whose illustrated guide is widely considered the definitive reference, has a very useful website as well.

Giant puffballs have more pronounced flavour than the common cultivated mushroom most of us are familiar with. There are any number of things you can do with them in the kitchen, but I recommend keeping it simple and letting the mushroom take centre-stage. I sliced it into ribbons, fried it in butter with some chopped garlic (not too much) and piled it onto a slice of toasted sourdough. Enough said.