Is The Puffball Mushroom Edible Or Poisonous?

Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 12:15 pm

Walking through nature, with a little luck, you can sometimes discover white mushrooms the size of a soccer without a stem. These tasty edible mushrooms are boviste. But be careful: not all boviste are edible.

  • young giant boviste edible
  • must have white, firm flesh (inside and out)
  • not to be eaten when they are brown in color
  • easily confused with young tuber leaf mushrooms
  • to test, cut in the middle and check for lamellar beginnings

Edible giant puffball


The giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea), which grows mainly in meadows and cattle pastures, not only looks quite similar to young mushrooms (and is significantly larger), but is also related to them. Like edible meadow mushrooms, the mushroom flesh is white and firm, but giant bovist does not form lamellae or stems. Characteristics:

  • can grow to the size of a soccer
  • between 10 and 50 centimeters in diameter
  • several kilograms in weight
  • roundish shape
  • no stems
  • no lamellae or tubes
Bovist essbar?

Giant puffballs can be collected between June and September.

Is The Puffball Mushroom Edible Or Poisonous?

Tip: This delicious edible mushroom can be found not only in meadows and pastures, but also in old orchards and occasionally in sparse forests with high pine stands.

Harvest only young specimens


But be careful: the giant puffball is only edible when young. Older specimens turn brown inside and out, and the interior also becomes very soft and powdery. In this state, the mushroom is not poisonous, but inedible and should be left standing. The fruiting body has now developed up to seven trillion spores, which emerge suddenly and explosively when the spores are mature.

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Risk of confusion


Young giant bovists can easily be confused by inexperienced collectors with the highly poisonous white tuberous-leaf mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Small ball-like mushrooms should therefore always be

  • cut them in the middle
  • look for lamellae inside
  • if lamellae are visible: Leave the mushroom
  • then it is a tuber leaf mushroom
  • also the stalk indicates that it is a tuberous-leaf mushroom


The tuber leaf fungus is one of the most poisonous mushroom species and causes fatal poisoning even when eaten in small quantities. The mushroom toxin mainly attacks the liver and leads to organ failure.

Knollenblätterpilz vs. Bovist

Note: Bulbous-leaf mushrooms are readily eaten by snails, but this does not indicate that they are harmless. Snails do not have a liver like we humans do, so the liver-damaging toxin cannot take effect in them.

Non-edible boviste


In addition to the tasty giant boviste, however, there are also boviste that are inedible or even poisonous. These include the potato bovists such as

  • the thick-shelled potato bovist (Scleroderma citrinum)
  • the leopard-skin hard bovist (Scleroderma areolatum)
  • and the brown-black hard bovist (Scleroderma verrucosum).


Potato bovists grow primarily in coniferous forests, less commonly in deciduous forests, and prefer acidic, rather nutrient-poor soil. These species can be easily distinguished from white giant bovist despite their rounded, bulbous fruiting body because they have a brownish, sometimes coarsely pelted exterior and a purple to brown coloration on the interior when young. Edible boviste always have a white and firm flesh. Potato boviste grow between July and December. They are common in Europe and should be left standing.

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Dickschalige Kartoffelbovist (Scleroderma citrinum)

Note: Whether potato bovist or giant bovist; these species, also known as abdominal fungi, have an unpleasant odor about them that strongly resembles urine in older specimens.

Frequently asked questions


What does boviste taste like?


Basically, you should only eat young giant boviste with firm, white flesh. They taste not unlike mushrooms, have a mild and pleasant aroma. As a result, they can also be seasoned very well and used, for example, as a substitute for meat. However, these edible mushrooms are not suitable as a seasoning due to their low intrinsic taste.

How can I prepare Boviste?


Usually, giant boviste are cut into slices of about one centimeter thick, which are strongly seasoned, rolled in beaten egg and flour and then fried like a cutlet. For seasoning, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs (e.g. parsley) as well as onions, garlic and noble sweet paprika powder are suitable. You can also cut the mushroom meat into bite-sized cubes and season accordingly to prepare like goulash.

What happens if I accidentally eat a potato bovist?


You probably won’t eat too much of the potato bovist, as it lacks the mild flavor of the edible giant bovist. In addition, the often strong, urine-like odor is a quick deterrent. Otherwise, you may suffer from abdominal pain, possibly vomiting and diarrhea, and circulatory problems. However, the potato bovist is not lethally poisonous – unlike the tuber leaf fungus, which unfortunately also has a pleasant spicy mushroom taste and is therefore not recognized as a poisonous mushroom. In this case, please immediately visit the emergency room or call an emergency doctor!

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Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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