Finding Giant Puffball Mushrooms Is a Great Way to Get Your Kids Excited About the Outdoors

This has been an autumn of puffballs in Wisconsin! I was out in Gibraltar rock enjoying my peaceful morning hike when I stumbled upon a field of puffballs. I thought to myself, what kind of egg that is?! Very strange…

It was one of those adventurous days, finding something on the trails, taking pictures, doing research – and finding out it’s a mushroom! I have been obsessed with mushrooms since I moved to Wisconsin. I joined the Wisconsin mushroom group on Facebook to learn more and ID the edible mushrooms.

My first forage in Wisconsin happened in Cherokee Marsh when I was hiking with my friends. I remember seeing these puffballs on the trails – and I jumped with joy while my friend stood there… trying to figure out the excitement. Puffballs surrounded me, some were brown in color, and the rest were pure white and smooth, (about the size of the soccer ball). I took one home to experiment and I reached out to the group and got good advice – any discoloration means they are past their edible prime.

I couldn’t wait to cut it open and experiment; it was pure white and smelled like mushrooms. When you cut into it, the texture of a puffball is like a very dense, damp sponge. Peel off the outer rind (pull it off or cut it off with a knife) and cut the puffball into slices.  If the inside is any color other than pure white, don’t use it. Yellow, brown, or purple means the spores are starting to form, and it is no longer good to eat.

My first time eating one, we fried them and served with steak. The second time we made healthy and crispy pizzas (where the puffball is UNDER the pizza). There are many recipes out there that you can find – along with YouTube videos teaching you about puffballs.

These puffballs got my daughter excited to go hiking after school; and now she is obsessed with foraging mushrooms, especially puffballs!

Locations where I’ve spotted puffball mushrooms near Madison:

  • Cherokee Marsh
  • Governor Nelson State Park
  • Token Creek County Park
  • McCarthy County Park
  • Gibraltar Rock
  • Indian Lake County Park
  • Yahara River Trail

If you’ve never eaten a puffball – you are missing out. Get your family out on the trails this fall to see them, (please don’t remove the mushrooms if you don’t need them), leave them for other families who need them. If you find 100 of them, please only take what you will use. It is essential to practice leaving no trace and take that moment to teach our child about respecting nature.

Not every year is perfect for puffball mushrooms – this year the conditions have been just right. Lots of moisture and warm days. I’m not a mushroom expert, this was a first for both me and my daughter. Some mushrooms can cause severe gastronomic distress, (or even death in the case of the deadly amanita mushroom), might fool inexperienced mushroom hunters into believing they are puffballs.

This is not a puffball, don’t touch it.
This is not a puffball, puffball doesn’t have a stem.
This is an old puffball, don’t take it home if it has changed color.
These are beautiful giant puffballs.
Dineo is a full-time mom and writer who was born in South Africa but now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and their daughter. For the past 6years, she has been an ambassador for Hike it Baby, a non-profit organization that connects families with babies and young children to the outdoors and each other. As part of this, Dineo spends much of her time outdoors, once hiking 21 miles in 8 hours and she is keen that her daughter spends as much time outside as is possible. Dineo’s other passion is for writing children's pictures and she currently has 5 books in circulation. Adventure Day, Sunset Hike, Spring hike, Summer Camping, and Christmas from both worlds, these books features diverse characters and are dedicated to nature and were created to inspire children to get out into the fresh air. They both contain exciting and diverse characters that children love. In her free time, Dineo loves reading nature books to her daughter, cooking, and baking. She enjoys running, camping and hiking whenever the opportunity arises and her ambition is to be able to travel the world, volunteering her time to help the needy and using the experiences she gains to write even more children’s books.

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