Mysterious Mushroom

puffballs, mushrooms, eating

From Tom Volk’s fungus site. This shows the scleroderma citrinum mushroom

Earlier this summer I was yakking to my neighbor when I looked down and saw a potato colored stone at my feet. It was the size of a small plum and, like the crow I am, I reached down to pick up the interesting stone and in the process recognized it as vegetable, or more accurately, fungus. I exclaimed to my neighbor, “Hey, it’s a puffball mushroom but I’ve never seen one that wasn’t wrinkly and puffing out its spores.”

mushrooms, edible fungus, puffballs

I didn’t get a picture of the full mushroom but you can see how tiny it was, and black inside.

I was intrigued. This little beast was firm and a light tan, like a new potato, with a wee tendril root at its base. I said I was going to eat it, to which my neighbor looked dubious. Oh, don’t worry, I assured him, puffballs are edible if they’re not sporing. But really, what did I know? I used to work upgrading hiking trails and got totally into trying to find edible plans. Chicken of the woods, those ripply fungi that grow on the sides of trees, were supposed to be edible and taste like, yes, chicken. But the ones I found were always woody and not the tender young things needed for chicken fungus.

calvatia cyathaformis, true puffball, cooking mushrooms

What do you do with a wee shroom? You fry it up in some garlic oil.
Hope it doesn’t kill you.

Being not a total idiot (or perhaps I was) I took the shroom inside and cut it open. I was very surprised by the black texture. Most puffballs are a solid white/cream mass, just like the outside of a button mushroom. My photos aren’t that good but it wasn’t solid black, more like what it would have looked like if you paced it tightly with black poppy seeds. Well, black guts! There was no way I was going to eat this without reading up more. Was it bad? Was it a truffle?

Neither, though truffles do have black interiors but look completely different.. It is indeed a puffball  earthball, of the variety Calvatia Cyathiformis, most likely scleroderma cepa. It’s hard to find pictures on the internet and most say that scleroderma are poisonous though I found a book on Amazon that says they’re edible.  The mushroom was very firm, and had no smell.

The puffball earthball was so small I thought I’d do a taste test and used mildly flavored garlic olive oil. I fried the slices for about then minutes and the color turned a bit more brownish. The texture remained firm, not like button mushrooms that can turn really soft. I survived with no ill effects. This was my first wild mushroom, picked by me, and it seems the internet lead me astray! Now I want to point out that I did several hours research before even contemplating cooking it. After all, I’ve seen The Forsaken and Clint Eastwood’s fungus embroilment. I didn’t want a repeat. Probably because it was so small it hadn’t developed its toxins yet, but I can tell you that after another two hours of searching on the internet that I can’t find the sites I read originally and that there aren’t a lot of great pictures. The skin was not scaly, there was no root and only a tendril. It wasn’t bitter at all but tasty.  The scleroderma cepa is used as a soil inoculant and while I don’t know what that means, it means any soil put in the yard could have carried these spores. So don’t eat these guys. Don’t try this at home kids. And just so you know, my neighbor’s gingko tree has been dropping apricot colored fruit but I will not be trying these even if you can eat up to five before you might be poisoned!

calvatia cyathiformis, frying mushrooms, cooking, wild mushrooms

My first taste of a wild mushroom. I wish I had more.
I’m glad I didn’t become one.

So maybe I am stupid after all. :-/ (Thanks to Hillary for pointing this out.)




Filed under environment, food

6 responses to “Mysterious Mushroom

  1. OMG Colleen!!! You have some serious balls there!

    I wouldn’t dare to consuming a mysterious mushroom but glad to see you are still alive. I think you would do well in the post apocalypse with your foraging skills.

    This post would make a great addition to Our Growing Edge this month which pulls together new food adventures. I know you aren’t strictly a food blog, but this is more adventurous than I would be willing to go!

    I hope you can join us!

  2. Hillary Rettig

    that looks like a common earthball, and they’re poisonous and you might have gotten sick from even a small bite. It’s generally considered a bad idea to take even a tiny taste of a mushie you haven’t definitively identified because there are lots and lots of lookalikes. btw, my mushroom guru says 1/10 mushrooms is poisonous.

    • colleenanderson

      I researched for several hours, checking the varieties. However, I cannot even find the sites I used at the time so when I typed this up I went with the fungus I remembered finding. It’s definitely not a scleroderma citrinium because it wasn’t scaly. I think it might be a scleroderma cepa. I have found info that says they’re edible and other that say poisonous. I’m going to up date my post because well, it was a rare find, but I’d hate to poison people even if I had no ill effects. 😦

  3. In Indonesia common earthball is edible, provided that you peel yellowish outer skin and choose the young mushroom with white inner part. Its inner part darkens when old and the ball pops up when the mushroom ready to spread its dry brownish black spores. I don’t know if it is the same species with earthball that found in another region. I did my research too, and one article in bahasa mentioned its latin name although I’m not sure of its accuracy. It tastes like white trumpet mushroom, slightly bitter with meaty texture. I checked Scleroderma verrucosum in Wikipedia (, and the page said that the gleba or the inner part is edible when it’s still firm and white.

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