Have your mushroom and eat it, too, when you find a pear-shaped puffball. This small, round mushroom grows in clusters on decaying wood. They are pure white on the inside and yellow to brown on the outside with tiny warts on the surface. Puffballs are edible while young and fresh. Peel off the outer skin, then batter and fry them, or sauté them in olive oil for a mycological treat.
—Elanor C. Hasenbeck
Excellent edible mushroom when young and fresh. Cut open each puffball from top to bottom to confirm your identification. When eating a wild mushroom for the first time, it’s a good idea to sample a small amount first, since some people are allergic to certain fungi.
½–1½ inches wide, ½–1¾ inches tall
Puffballs spend most of the year as a network of fungal cells called mycelium, which penetrate into dead wood, digesting and decaying it. When ready to reproduce, the puffball develops above ground. The fruiting body of a puffball contains a spore sac. When young, the spore sac is solid inside, but as it matures it becomes a mass of powdery spores. The spores puff out from a pore that forms at the top of the sac.
Puffballs are one of the many fungi species that live on decaying wood. Decomposers like puffballs play an important role in breaking down wood and returning nutrients to the soil.
The pear-shaped puffball’s genus name, Lycoperdon, literally translates to “wolf fart,” from the Greek “lyco” meaning “wolf” and “perdon” meaning “break wind.”
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