Generally, puffballs are the most easily identifiable of all mushrooms because they are round to pear-shaped fungi. They will occasionally have a stem as do many gilled mushrooms. The puffballs are the rounded white-to-brown masses we see thriving on the front lawn in the summer and autumn months. They emit a smoky cloud when hit, that is caused by the billions of spores leaving the puffball before they mature. These are sometimes called Devil's Snuffbox or Cream Puff. If you see a completely uniform white, cream cheese-like consistency inside this mushroom, you know it is safe to eat. But beware, if you slice one open and it has the characteristics of an immature cap, stalk, or gills, do not ingest any part of it, as it is most likely the deadly amanita species. Never collect a mushroom whose interior contains a developing cap or gills.
Giant Puffball, Calvatia cathiformis, is edible, and quite large. It can weigh several pounds when full grown. The cap is nearly round, being anywhere from 8-20 inches or more across with the outer skin being of a smooth consistency. This consistency may feels like fine felt and somewhat spungy. The mushroom is white when young, turning to a light gray or brown when aged. The inside is white and of a cream cheese quality, so you know it is safe to eat. The stem is thick and attached to the base. You can find these mushrooms at the edges of meadows and low, wet areas. They prefer wet soil so look for along the banks of streams and moist meadows
This member of the Giant Puffball group. It can be easily identified because it looks like a nice, round loaf of bread with the cap being a tan to brown hue. It rests upon a thick base and usually appears pear-shaped. Fine cracks which are lighter in color than the rest of the surface helps to identify it. This mushroom fruits in late summer and autumn after heavy rains.
This large, roundish, puffball, may often appear flattened, smooth at first but developing cracks later. The inside is soft and white, but as the spores mature, they become violet-black to yellow-brown, then dark purple-black. Finally, the top of the puffball erodes and a large cup remains.
If mushrooms are to your taste, this is a choice selection. It can often be difficult to tell the immature mushroom apart from the skull-shaped puffball, which is also a choice edible, but there are no poisonous look-alikes in the puffball group. To prepare, trim away the cuticle (covering) if it's encrusted with dirt, and cut out any bad parts with a paring knife. Try not to wash this mushroom under water, or it will become too soggy to saute. Slice the puffball, saute it, steam it, or simmer it in soups, like other mushrooms. It is also great baked or grilled. It has a sweet-savory flavor and soft texture. It doesn't dehydrate well, so to store it over long-range, it should be cooked first and then frozen.