Puffballs

Calvatia and Lycoperdon species

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Puffballs are represented by several species that range in size from a mini-marshmallow to a beach ball. “Giant puffball” is a term applied to all large puffballs in general, as well as a single species, Calvatia gigantea (also called Langermannia gigantea). The puffy dappled buns pictured are C. cyathiformis (called purple-spored) smaller but similar in character to the giant. Puffballs, which are common in the temperate zone in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, rarely make it to the market. Nature lovers who do not ordinarily forage pick them (probably because they are easy to spot and to identify), and quite a few chefs snatch them up. But I was still surprised to read in Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America (by David W. Fischer and Alan E. Bessette) that the puffball “is probably the world’s best-known edible wild mushroom.”