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.