Giant Puffballs have always delighted me. The first time I first saw one, gleaming and impossibly white, I was hiking through a low elevation meadow in the San Louis foothills of Colorado. I felt elated; as though some gift from the gods had been bestowed upon me. And that's just what it's like, to find one of these shimmering specimens still in its prime.
For novice mushroom hunters, identification can feel risky—not so with the unmistakably whimsical Calvatia gigantea. You see, Giant Puffballs are practically impossible to misidentify. When mature, they have no lookalikes. Giant Puffballs grow straight from the earth in meadows, fields, and deciduous forests across the globe. You'll find them popping up late summer through early autumn after a good rain.
To positively identify a Giant Puffball, slice your specimen in half. It should be firm, spongey, and pure white through and through, with no gills or discolorations. In short, it should look like a big white nerf ball—but I promise it will taste much better.
Unlike other wild mushrooms whose flavors are distinctive and coveted, the Giant Puffball is neutral and even bland when approached without imagination. However, its excellent texture and abundant flesh make it an ideal blank canvas upon which to play.
The ice cream recipe which follows is by far my favorite way to enjoy a bountiful harvest of Puffballs. It's so good I was beside myself the entire time I was making it, eating it, and committing the recipe to paper. I'll say it once more: beside myself. So keep your eyes peeled for a firm white Puffball next time you're out in early autumn, and this unusual sweet treat could be yours to enjoy!