Calvatia gigantea: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Calvatia gigantea Mushroom
Calvatia gigantea, sometimes called the "Giant Puffball," is easily recognized by its size and shape, edible when immature.
Giant puffballs are saprotrophs, meaning they feed on dead organic matter. They're more likely found in meadows and grasslands than in the forest. They are always found growing on the ground rather than up in trees.
They often re-appear in the same place each year. This has caused some people to suspect they may be mycorrhizal rather than saprotrophic, but this has not been proven.
Puffballs are sometimes found in a large circle called a "fairy ring".
These mushrooms fruit in late summer to early fall. Despite their large size this happens quickly. The fruit body will appear in about a week's time.
Typical specimens are about the size of a soccer ball, and more or less round. However, it can be much larger (a 5-foot, 50-pound specimen has been reported!), and its shape can be more "blob-ish" than round, especially when it attains enormous sizes. But it is never shaped like an inverted pear, since it lacks the sterile base portion common to many other puffballs.
The western species Calvatia booniana can also grow to 60 cm or more—but its surface is composed of polygonal scales, and it looks very different.
Langermannia gigantea is a synonym, representing a taxonomic argument that does not look like it is going away any time soon since DNA studies have yet to resolve the matter.
Saprobic; terrestrial; growing alone or gregariously in woods or grass – often at the edges of meadows, in drainage ditches, or underbrush; late summer and early fall.
Shaped like a ball, or nearly so; 20–30 cm or more across; 14–25 cm or more high.
White when fresh, becoming yellowish or olive brownish; soft.
Finely velvety when young, becoming bald or developing very inconspicuous, fine scales in places; soft.
Outer skin less than 1 mm thick, sloughing away in very old specimens; interior white and soft when young and fresh, without a sterile basal area, becoming olive-yellow and eventually turning to brownish spore dust.
Often with a short but thick cord (to 6 cm long and 2 cm wide) at the point of attachment to the ground.
When they have formed spores and are ready to ejaculate them, a single drop of rain will trigger the spores release.
Calvatia gigantea Health Benefits
Pill made with Calvatia gigantea and snake slough is kept in mouth to treat sore throat.
Reducing inflammation, swelling and relieving pain
Pills made with Calvatia gigantea, mirabilite and granulated sugar is kept in mouth to treat aphonia.
Pills made with Calvatia gigantea powder and honey is taken with soup to treat chronic coughing.
Pills made with Calvatia gigantea and granulated sugar is taken with normal water to treat hematemesis related to accumulated lung heat.
Powdered Calvatia gigantea is taken with rice soup to treat hematemesis during pregnancy.
Native Americans used the spores for wound healing as they help the blood to coagulate and it is believed that they have antiseptic properties.
Back in the 1960s a substance named calvacin was isolated from giant puffballs and proved to have anti-tumor properties in vitro. When experiments on animals became increasingly used this substance was tested on lab rats but unfortunately.
Although it did kill the cancerous cells and the tumor it had bad side effects and caused anorexia, acute liver failure, muscle inflammation and bleeding from the lungs. Some rats died within two days of being subjects of the experiment.
However in 2008 new research was conducted into the substances which can be found in these mushrooms and three were found to be present which had not been reported in mushrooms previously: Methyl anthranilate, Methyl N N-dimethylanthranilate and Methyl N-methylanthranilate. ("Volatile Constituents of the Giant Puffball Calvatia gigantea" by John C. Leffingwell and E. D. Alford in Leffingwell Reports Vol. 4 March 2011.) (Source PDF)
Calvatia gigantea Side Effects
Clinical and experimental results show that this mushroom has significant hemostatic efficacy it is inadvisable to be used in the cases that require keeping the sponge in the bleeding tissue or the dead space since it cannot be absorbed by the tissue.
Clinically occasionally it might lead to some adverse reactions, including fever, dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, insomnia, frequent urination, and skin allergies. But usually most of them will disappear in 1 to 2 weeks and in severe cases, they can be healed after discontinuation.
Calvatia gigantea Classification
Originally described in 1786 by German naturalist August Johann Georg Karl Batsch (1761 - 1802), who called it Lycoperdon giganteum, the Giant Puffball was given its current name in 1904 by Curtis Gates Lloyd (1859-1926), a wealthy American mycologist and pharmacist who specialised in research into the gasteromycetes.
Synonyms of Calvatia gigantea include Lycoperdon giganteum Batsch, Bovista gigantea (Batsch) Gray, Langermannia gigantea (Batsch) Rostk., and Lasiosphaera gigantea (Batsch) F. Šmarda.
Calvatia gigantea Cultivation
Wild fruiting bodies of Calvatia gigantea are very rare, and cannot be grown by artificial cultivation owing to its strict external growth environmental requirements and thus the development and utilization of Calvatia giganteaare inevitably affected.
Calvatia gigantea Taste
The young immature puffball is edible and has a rich, earthy, nutty taste, although some belief it to be bland, only taking on the flavors of the foodstuff it is cooked with.
They are delicious fried in butter and good in an omelet.
Some say that they can be used instead of tofu or aubergines, but they are well chopped in any recipe that calls for mushrooms.
You should only eat giant puffballs that have no gills and have not formed spores. When this happens they turn a pale yellow color and as they mature they become yellow-brown. They have to have solid white flesh in their interior for them to be edible.
Cut all puffballs in half to be certain that there is no sign of gills. If gills are present it is not a puffball but instead the "button stage" of a gilled mushroom.
If the mushroom is infested with insects/maggots it should be severely trimmed to avoid the infested parts.
The outside skin is easily peeled and should not be eaten if it is tough, leathery, or dirty.
Never wash the puffball with water as it will soak up water like a sponge and become very soggy.
The puffball can be stored for 2-5 days in the refrigerator without losing significant quality.
Calvatia gigantea Nutrition Facts
The concentrations of total free amino acids, essential and non-essential amino acids were 199.65 mg/100 g, 113.69 mg/100 g, and 85.96 mg/100 g in C. gigantea, respectively. This study showed that C. gigantea, so-called a giant puffball mushroom, has free amino acids content.
The essential amino acids: tryptophan, isoleucine, valine, phenylalanine, leucine, threonine, lysine, histidine, methionine, and the non-essential amino acids: tyrosine, 4-hyrdroxy proline, arginine, proline, glycine, serine, alanine, glutamine, glutamic acid, aspargine, aspartic acid were detected.
Recipe: Calvatia gigantea Parmigiana
2 tablespoons oil
4 slices of giant puffball, each about ¾ inch thick and 4 x 4 inches square (2 x 10 x 10 cms)
¼ cup (35gms) sweet rice flour or regular all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
¼ cup (25gms) finely grated Parmesan cheese (the kind that is like a fluffy powder)
¼ cup (40gms) instant polenta or fine cornmeal
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup (240ml) or more of your favorite tomato pasta sauce, bottled or homemade
About 1½ cups (150gms) shredded mozzarella cheese
Peel the puffball, then slice it into ¾-inch thick slices and trim them to the size of a chicken cutlet (about 4 inches square).
In one shallow bowl, mix the flour with the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper.
In another bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk.
In a third shallow bowl or rimmed plate, stir together the Parmesan cheese, cornmeal, garlic powder, and remaining ½ teaspoon of pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Dip the puffball slices into the flour to coat all sides. Then dip them into the beaten egg. Finally dip them into the Parmesan cheese mixture, making sure all surfaces are completely covered.
Fry the breaded slices in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes a side, until they are a deep golden color.
Lay the fried puffball slices into a baking pan, leaving at least ½ space between them.
Spoon a generous ¼ cup of the tomato sauce in a row down the center of each puffball slice. Pile a heaping ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese into a mound on top of the tomato sauce on each cutlet.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden in spots.
*To freeze, lay the uncooked cheese-coated puffball slices onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, not touching each other. Freeze them until solid, then store them in a sealed heavy-duty, zip-top bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Fry the slices directly from frozen, then add the tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake as directed.
Recipe: Sweet and Sour Asian Style Puffball
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (or 1 or 2 Thai chili peppers, or ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes)
1 red bell pepper
1 pound (450gms) diced giant puffball (8 – 10 cups)
1½ cups (360ml) chicken broth, divided
4 tablespoons (60ml) soy sauce (gluten-free if necessary)
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4-5 green onions (scallions)
½ cup roasted, salted peanuts or cashews (don’t omit these as they provide a nice crunch in contrast to the soft puffball cubes)
Plain cooked rice for serving
Mince the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno pepper (including the seeds) or chili pepper, if using.
Dice the onion.
Cut the bell pepper into 1 inch (2cm) cubes.
Dice the puffball into 1 inch (2cm) cubes.
Slice the green onions on a steep diagonal slant.
Coarsely chop the nuts.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add the minced garlic, ginger, and jalapeno or chili flakes. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Add the diced onion and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onion, is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the cubed puffball.
Stir together 1 cup (240ml) of the chicken broth, the soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Pour over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir together the remaining ½ cup (120ml) chicken stock with the corn starch, and stir the slurry into the bubbling puffball stew. Add the sliced green onions and cook until thickened, about 30 seconds.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts or cashews.
Serve over hot cooked rice.
Recipe: Calvatia gigantea Pizza
Several slices, ½ – ¾ inch (1-2 cm) thick of giant puffball, peeled – these can be whole cross-section slices for large pizzas, smaller slabs for individual pizzas, or even smaller pieces for appetizer-sized pizza bites
Your favorite pasta sauce or tomato sauce
Your favorite pizza toppings – ham, pepperoni, salami, onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. (You don’t need to add mushrooms since the puffball is a giant mushroom and will provide that umami mushroom flavor.)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cut the required amount of slices from the puffball, and peel or cut off the outer skin. Brush each side of the slice with olive oil.
The puffball slices need to be cooked and dried out slightly before using them as the crust base, to make them firm enough and ensure they don’t give off too much moisture to the pizza. There are several ways you can prepare them:
Grill the slices on the barbecue or cook them in a grill pan until they are nicely browned and you have good char marks on each side. (On our barbecue it takes about 10 minutes per side on medium heat, lid open, rotating the slices on a diagonal halfway through on each side to get a grill mark grid.)
Roast the slices in a 425°F (220°C) oven on a metal cooling rack set on top of a cookie sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through.
Pan-fry the slices in a skillet. Add a little extra oil and fry them until each side is golden brown. Lay on the paper towel to absorb any extra oil.
You can cook the slices several days ahead and keep them refrigerated until needed, or freeze the cooked slices in a sealed heavy-duty zip-top bag to make quick pizzas anytime. No need to defrost – top and bake them right from frozen.
Place the grilled puffball slices onto a baking sheet. Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce or tomato sauce evenly onto each slice. Dust with a sprinkling of oregano.
Top with your favorite pizza toppings, thinly sliced.
Cover with a generous layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese, if using.
Bake in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese, is bubbling and golden in spots.
Recipe: Sauteed Puffball with Lemon and Garlic
3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 pound (450gms) giant puffball, diced in 1-inch cubes (8-10 cups)
¼ teaspoon pepper
Grated zest and juice of half a lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven. Add the diced onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add the diced puffballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the puffballs have shrunk in size and are golden brown in spots (5 to 10 minutes).
Add the pepper and lemon zest. Cook for 1 more minute.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the puffballs and sprinkle with the parsley. Toss and add more salt to taste, if desired.
Recipe: Calvatia gigantea Fries
1 pound (454gms) puffball, cut into thick french fry shaped sticks
¼ cup (35gms) sweet rice flour or regular all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (45gms)finely grated Parmesan cheese (the kind that is like a fluffy powder)
½ cup (80gms) instant polenta or fine cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
Your favorite dipping sauce – or try one of these easy sauces: marinara sauce, currywurst sauce, honey mustard sauce, smoky chipotle sauce, easy curry ketchup, spicy orange mayonnaise.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Cut the puffball into thick french fry shapes, about ½-inch x ½-inch (1 cm) by 3 inches (7.5cm) long.
In one shallow bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
In another bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk.
In a third shallow bowl or pie plate, stir together the Parmesan cheese, cornmeal, garlic powder, and pepper.
Dip the puffball sticks into the flour to coat all sides. Then dip them into the beaten egg, tapping off the excess. Finally dip them into the Parmesan cheese mixture one at a time, making sure all surfaces are completely covered.
Lay the coated puffball fries onto an ungreased cookie sheet, not touching each other. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust, is golden, or fry them in a skillet in several tablespoons of oil, turning to fry each side until golden brown.
Recipe: Cheesy Puffball Pasta Bake
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or oil
1 lb (450gms), 8-10 cups, diced giant puffball (1-inch/2.5cm cubes)
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb. short pasta – macaroni, fusilli, shells, etc.
3 cups (720ml) pasta sauce (tomato-based or cream-based) – a 650ml (22oz jar) + ¼ cup (60ml) of the pasta cooking water works fine, too
1 cup (100gm) shredded aged cheddar cheese
3 to 4 cups (300-400gms) shredded mozzarella cheese
Set a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until almost cooked. Remove it about 2 minutes before it would be done. It should still be somewhat firm in the center. Scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
While the pasta water is heating and the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the puffball cubes and ½ teaspoon salt.
The pan will be very full, but the puffballs will shrink in size considerably.
Cook, stirring occasionally until the puffballs have released and evaporated their moisture and the cubes have turned golden in spots, about 10 minutes.
Toss together the cooked puffballs, cooked pasta, pasta sauce, reserved ½ cup of pasta water, and the shredded cheddar cheese.
Tip it all into a greased 9×13 inch pan or casserole dish. Cover with a liberal layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350° (180°C) until the cheese is bubbling and golden in spots, about 30 minutes.
Recipe: Puffball Schnitzel with Sage and Onion Gravy
For the gravy:
3 tablespoons oil
2 large onions (500 gms total)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground dried sage
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce (gluten-free)
2 cups (480ml) beef stock or mushroom stock
2 tablespoon sweet rice flour (or regular flour for non-gluten-free)
½ cup (120ml) water
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
For the puffball schnitzel:
1 lb (454gms) trimmed, peeled puffball (from about 1½ lbs of a whole puffball)
1/3 cup sweet rice flour (or regular flour for non-gluten-free)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs
1 cup of fine dry bread crumbs (gluten-free, if necessary)
½ cup (120ml) high-heat-tolerant oil for frying
8 fresh sage leaves, optional
Make the Sage & Onion Gravy: Peel and cut the onions into large chunks, then mince them finely in the food processor – pulse it in short bursts, so you don’t over-process them into mush. (Or mince the onions finely by hand.) Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally until they are evenly browned and caramelized – this should take about 20 minutes. Watch that they don’t burn near the end as the sugars start to caramelize.
Add the garlic, sage, and pepper, and cook for one more minute. Then add the soy sauce and beef or mushroom stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the flavorful bits. Bring the stock to a boil. In a small jar, shake together the water and sweet rice flour (or regular flour), and pour this slurry into the gravy while stirring. Cook and stir until the gravy thickens.
Add the balsamic vinegar and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed. Turn down the heat to very low, cover, and keep the gravy warm.
Make the Schnitzel: While the onions are caramelizing, prepare the puffball schnitzel for frying and set them aside.
Peel and trim any dark spots from your puffball. Cut it into slabs about as thick as a slice of bread.
Set out three bowls or shallow containers for your breading station. In the first one, combine the sweet rice flour with the salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. In the second one, beat two eggs. In the third one, put the bread crumbs.
Dip each slab of puffball first into the seasoned flour, then into the beaten egg, making sure to completely cover every bit, then finally into the bread crumbs, again making sure every surface is fully covered. (This works best if you use one hand for dipping the puffball into the flour and egg mixtures, and the other hand for dipping it into the crumbs.) Set the breaded puffball slabs onto a plate or cutting board in a single layer.
When the gravy is ready and shortly before you’re ready to eat, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. If you are using the fresh sage leaves, lay them into the hot oil in a single layer and fry them for a few seconds on one side, then turn them over and fry them for a few seconds on the other side, just until they start to turn a bit brownish in spots. Quickly remove them and lay them on a paper towel. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. They will crisp up as they cool.
Fry the slabs of puffball schnitzel in the hot oil, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until they are golden and crispy. Remove the fried schnitzels to a paper towel-lined plate. You may have to cook them in two batches.
Serve the schnitzel with the gravy and top each serving with two crispy fried sage leaves (or a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley or sage leaves).
Recipe: Classic Fried Puffballs
Fresh puffball mushrooms
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
High heat cooking oil, like grapeseed
Eggs, beaten well with a splash of dairy or water
Fresh arugula or whatever greens you have/prefer
Fresh lemon juice or wedge,
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat an oven to 225, or a warm setting.
Season the flour with a couple of good pinches of salt.
If you haven’t already, slice off the root end of the puffball and inspect for any bug damage, the flesh of the mushroom should be perfectly white, not at all greenish-yellow.
Using a long, sharp slicing knife, slice the puffball into 1/2 inch or so slices. Liberally coat the mushroom slices in flour, then tap off the excess and dip them in beaten egg, then the panko breadcrumbs. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan (1/4-1/2 a cup should be good depending on the size of your mushroom slices) then, when sizzling hot, add the puffballs and cook until golden brown on each side.
Pay close attention to the amount of oil in the pan, the breadcrumbs are going to soak up a ton of oil, and you don’t let the pan get dry, think of it as a shallow deep-fry.
Once the mushrooms are browned, place them in the warm oven on a cookie sheet with a resting rack to prevent the heat from being trapped and steaming the crispy crust until you’re done with the rest.
When the mushrooms are all fried, dress the arugula or other greens with the lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.
Recipe: Puffball Mushroom Burgers
Puffball mushroom sliced (they vary in size, so one thick burger-sized slice each)
100 g flour many different flour types will work for this recipe, including gluten-free
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
50 g 'Parmesan' finely grated but not powdered
Knob of butter
Drizzle of olive oil
4 crusty sourdough rolls
Burger toppings and garnishes to taste (I used tomato, avocado & cress)
Peel the skin off the puffball mushroom slices - just make a nick in the skin and it should come away very easily.
Mix the salt, pepper, and flour in a bowl wide enough to fit one mushroom slice easily.
Beat the egg with a splash of water in a similarly shaped bowl.
Add the grated 'Parmesan' to a third bowl.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-low heat, until hot, but not smoking.
Working one at a time, dip each slice in seasoned flour, then egg, then 'Parmesan', pressing the cheese onto all the sides to help it adhere, before adding it to the hot pan.
Fry the slices, keeping the heat medium-low, turning once. When the cheese is crisp and golden and the mushroom is hot and tender all the way through, they are ready - about 5 minutes per side.
Transfer to paper towels to drain the excess fat, then serve immediately with crusty sourdough rolls and whatever burger toppings and garnishes take your fancy.
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