This page is used to feature mushrooms that are prevalent for the particular time of the year or, during the winter months, to feature some of the less desirable or hard to find mushrooms. To see some of our previous stars follow this link to an index of previously featured mushrooms.
Mushroom of the Month
Calivatia gigantea and Langermannia gigantea:
The Giant Puffball
The giant puffball is a large edible white mushroom. Although David Arora finds the mushroom edible and choice and Gary Lincoff finds it choice, I consider it to be of only average taste at best. I call these the tofu of mushrooms (American supermarket tofu not real Chinese tofu).
Giant puffballs are roughly spherical in shape though sometimes they are lobed. Their diameter ranges from 4 to 20 inches though rare specimens with a diameter of 5 feet have been found. The skin of the puffball is white with the consistency of soft leather hardening with age. Immature puffballs are pure white inside and this is the edible stage. As soon as they begin to discolor they become bitter. There is no sterile base like many puffballs have (see Lycoperdon perlatum and L. pyriforme). At the base of the puffball, rootlike strands connect the puffball to its mycelia network. As the mushroom matures the interior spore mass becomes yellow green to olive brown to brown. There is no pore at the top like many puffballs have, rather this skin cracks irregularly and the puffball relies on wind, rain and animals to spread its spores. Often in the spring you can find a pile of the spores where the puffball fruited. Giant puffballs fruit in August through October though rarely they can be found in the spring. They occur singly or in fairly rings.
In Wild About Mushrooms: The Cookbook of the Mycological Society of San Francisco (available on line) Louise Freedman suggest that the puffballs go very well with eggs (chopped and scrambled with eggs), that breaded fried puffballs served with a piquant sauce make a dinner entry. A recipe for Parmesan puffballs from Hope Miller can be found and a recipe for chicken baked with puffballs is given. In the Complete Mushroom Antonio Carlucci has a recipe for Mushroom “Caviar” using puffballs shaggy manes and chicken of the woods. I have made a puffball parmesan like eggplant parmesan substituting the puffball slices for the eggplant. I have had cream of puffball soup that one of our members made that was quite good.
In his cookbook, the Complete Mushrooom, Antonio Carlucci gives these recipes for Porcinis: braised porcini, chicken casserole with porcini and Leccinum aurantium, clams with porcini, cream of porcini soup, extravaganza of game and fungi, fried seafood and mushrooms, mushroom lasagna, morel and porcini risotto mushroom vol-au-vents, pappardelle with porcini, and veal chops with porcini. The variety of recipes illustrates the many uses of these mushrooms. They have a strong, nutty flavor that goes well in many types of dishes.