Calvatia gigantea

The tofu of the fungus world, the giant puffball grows in lawns after the first rains of the season. It can range from fist-size (like those shown above) to basketball size and bigger. It has no stalk, just a mass of spores inside an off-white skin. As it ages, the spores change color from white to brown.

If you pick C. Gigantea when young and pure white inside, it makes an excellent but somewhat flavorless tofu substitute. Just sautée some slabs of it on medium high heat with a bit of butter until it begins to brown, then add it to whatever dish you please. Although it's bland, it absorbs and harmonizes with the flavors around it.

Be sure to use only the young specimens, as it can turn bitter with age. As soon as any of the interior starts to change color from pure white to yellow-tan or brown, toss it. Also, be very careful not to confuse C. Gigantea with the "egg" of an Amanita. Such a mistake could be deadly. Check very carefully by cutting through the center of the fruiting body, looking for any signs of the formation of an embryonic gilled mushroom. A giant puffball has an undifferentiated mass of white spores inside, an Amanita egg will have the ghosted pattern of a baby mushroom inside.