There’s a good chance you’ve seen some puffball mushrooms before, even if you didn’t know what they were.
The puffball mushroom, or agaricus bisporus, is very common and has many close relatives.
Is It Safe To Eat Puffball Mushrooms? In this article, we will discuss whether or not puffball mushrooms are toxic, and we will also look at some common poisonous lookalikes.
Are Puffball Mushrooms Poisonous?
Most puffballs are safe to eat, and those that have fully developed can be consumed raw or cooked. When they are young, certain poisonous mushrooms can be mistaken for puffballs. The deadly imposters are a much more serious problem than eating puffballs that are too sour or too ripe.
Puffball Mushrooms Facts
When stepped on or squeezed, the puffball mushroom releases a “puff” of brown spores that resemble dust, hence the name.
This type of mushroom is classified as a Basidiomycota.
Puffball mushrooms that aren’t fake have stalks and stems and aren’t round like a ball. The spores are not produced externally like in most mushrooms, and there is no open cap.
Puffballs are easily identifiable because they lack an open cap with spore-bearing gills. Rather, spores are made in the organism itself.
Puffball mushrooms have been used for a wide variety of purposes, from ink production to serving as a unique component in smoke (used historically to put bees to sleep and more recently in the surgical setting as an anesthetic).
How To Identify Edible Puffball Mushrooms
Checking for the absence of gills, pores, a cap, stem, or spine is the first step in identifying edible puffball mushrooms.
It should be round or sphere-like with a short stalk that extends into the ground. If everything went well, the inside would be a pristine white.
Are All Puffball Mushrooms Edible?
The puffball mushroom is not always edible, at least not when it is fully mature. Puffball mushrooms are edible, but only if they are completely white on the inside.
If the mushroom’s white cap has any tint of gray or brown, it is no longer edible and may be toxic.
Can You Eat Puffball Mushrooms Raw?
It doesn’t matter if you eat your puffballs raw or cooked, as long as the inside is white. The puffball could be a complete meal in and of itself if it’s big enough.
What Happens If You Inhale Puffball Spores?
Most likely, nothing will happen if you breathe in puffball spores. However, breathing in too many fully developed puffball spores can cause a respiratory disease called lycoperdonosis.
Disease is classified as alveolar inflammation due to dust-induced hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Common Types of Puffball Mushrooms
Numerous varieties of puffball mushrooms are widely available. Major types include the following that we list below:
- The Bovista puffball mushroom is a member of the genus Bovista, which is classified with the “true puffballs” of fungi.
- Puffballs as large as soccer balls are cultivated from the Calvatia genus, which includes the C. gigantea fungus.
- The Handkea puffball mushroom is a member of the genus Handkea in the family Agaricaceae. Instead of conventional pores, it has sinuous slits all over its body.
- One of the most common types of mushrooms is the Lycoperdon puffball. About 50 species of these pear-shaped puffballs can be found across the globe.
- The Scleroderma fungus genus, also known as “earth balls,” can be found in soils all over the world. These puffballs are classified as Boletales Sclerodermatineae.
How To Cook Puffball Mushrooms
Fried in butter, puffballs are a simple dish to prepare.
The puffball mushrooms should be cleaned before being cut into pieces. The next step is to begin cooking them by melting butter over medium heat in a skillet.
Toss the sliced puffball mushroom pieces into the pan one by one. Let them brown to your liking in the oven.
Unless the heat is very high or the mushrooms are very large, the total cooking time should be less than 5 minutes.
Never eat a mushroom unless you know for sure what it is. You can learn more about the 24 types of poisonous mushrooms you should never eat by reading 24 Toxic Mushrooms You Should Never Eat.
Poisonous Mushrooms That Look Like Puffballs
Be careful if you decide to pick your own puffball mushrooms. Numerous puffball-shaped mushrooms are actually highly toxic and should be avoided at all costs.
Worse still, they are frequently mistaken for the genuine article.
We’ll go over some of the most important puffball-shaped poisonous mushrooms below.
Hundreds of mushroom species can be found in the Amanita genus. The vast majority of amanitas are potentially lethal toxins or hallucinogens.
While many puffballs are brown, many amanitas are white, especially when they are young.
Never eat an amanita mushroom; they are poisonous. The stalk and veil give these mushrooms away as something other than puffballs.
Another poisonous mushroom frequently misidentified as a puffball is the Sclerodomera.
The similarity to authentic puffball mushrooms is most striking when the mushrooms are still young.
The young Sclerodomera is similar to a puffball in appearance, but its white flesh is hard instead of soft and spongy. There have been multiple fatalities linked to scleroderma.
Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera)
In scientific terms, the destroying angel is an Amanita species called Amanita bisporigera, and it grows in both Europe and North America.
Most of the deaths from poisonous mushrooms in those regions can be attributed to this fungus. In its early stages, it has a white interior and resembles a puffball.
If you eat this mushroom, you will die.
Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
The death cap, or Amantia phalloides, is another lethal Amanita species that looks like a small puffball when it’s young and can be easily misidentified as such.
The insides of these healthy-looking puffballs are a pure white color.
Are Puffball Mushrooms Poisonous to Dogs?
Dogs are just as susceptible to the toxic effects of puffball mushrooms and their impostors as humans are. The superior strength and sensitivity of a dog’s nose makes them especially dangerous.
Therefore, they have a higher risk than you do of contracting lycoperdonosis.
How Do I Get Rid of Puffballs in My Yard?
Puffball mushrooms can be removed from your yard by putting on pants, grabbing a shovel, rolling up your sleeves, and going to work.
Sod or fertilize the area afterward to prevent new fungi from taking root.
Roots and other organic debris can encourage mushroom growth, so cleaning them up is a good idea.
If you know how to identify puffball mushrooms, or if you get them from a trustworthy and knowledgeable source, you can safely eat them.
Not only are they potentially poisonous if they aren’t ripe or have passed their prime, but there are also poisonous substitutes.