Other Cool Stuff


Eat me!! – edible puffballs

Many of the mushrooms that have been deemed safe (and delicious) to eat are members of the Agaricomycetes class of Basidiomycota (exceptions include morels and truffles which are Ascomycota). The pear shaped puffballs (L. pyriforme) and its relatives such as the giant puffballs (C. gigantea) are indeed edible in nature.  However, before chomping down on any puffball mushroom, take a minute and consider the following:

  • The outer layer of the puffball MUST be thin – if it’s thick you may have yourself a POISONOUS mushroom, see below for details of dangerous look-alikes
  • The inside should be uniformly white, any darkening or discoloration indicates that the puffball isn’t “ripe”, basically that it’s no longer in its edible form
  • The smaller puffballs should have a homogenous and marshmallow-type texture
  • Slice through every puffball before eating not only to check for color but also any internal structures because this indicates that you probably have the LETHAL mushroom called the death angel
Other tasty mushrooms

Morels, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and chanterelles are just a few of the many different types of delicious fungi.  For more information about edible puffballs and other mushrooms click here.  Or, for the culinary mycologists out there looking for a challenge, check out the cookbook provided by the Mycological Society of San Francisco for puffball-related recipes (The parmesan puffballs look like a winner to me!!)


photo by Building Blocks Show from flicr.com


Danger  - certain puffball look-alikes can kill you!

Toxic mushrooms

Death Angels - Amanita bisporigera, Amanita virosa, and Amanita verna

photos by Tom Volk

These are usually present as gilled mushrooms but may have a spherical ball appearance during certain phases of development.  They are distinguished from puffballs by the presence of internal structures noted by slicing the ball portion in half

Click here for more information about these deadly mushrooms


 The Poison Pigskin Puffball - Scleroderma citrinum
Although not known to be fatal, these "false puffballs" do tend to cause a wide variety of moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems, so it's best to know exactly what to look for when selecting mushrooms.  Since both Scleroderma and wolf-fart puffballs tend to be similar in size, other means of differentiation must be used.  The outer skin of Scleroderma is much thicker than that of the edible puffballs.  Also, Scleroderma will have a very dark interior compared to the desired pure white color of L. pyriforme.

photo by Tom Volk

Hallucinogenic mushrooms

Some members of the Basidiomycota produce secondary metabolites that have hallucinogenic effects when ingested by humans.  One such example occurs in the Psilocybe sp.  I encourage you to check out another student's P. cubensis MultipleOrganisms site for additional information and pictures.

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