Puffballs describe mushrooms of a particular shape: domed and round. This is not one particular type of mushroom but rather a collection of mushroom species that appear similar. Many of these puffball mushrooms are edible. They are a common sight, often appearing on lawns as well as in forests.
Characteristics of Puffballs
Most puffballs are medium to large, though there are some that are very small. They can be found in clusters or growing in circles known as fairy rings. They stay white throughout until they reach their fully mature, spore-bearing stage. At this point, they will turn brown. They can be recognized by the puffs of brown dust they produce when disturbed, which consists of the puffball mushroom spores.
The Lifecycle of a Puffball
The puffball mushroom starts life as a tiny brown spore, which settles into the soil and begins to grow. It will then appear as a small dome, which will become larger over time. When it reaches maximum size, it will begin the conversion to its spore-producing form. Its inner flesh will be converted into a fine brown dust consisting entirely of spores. Its outer skin will turn black or brown and become exceedingly thin and fragile, particularly at the top of the dome. When tapped or squeezed, the skin of the puffball will rupture, allowing the brown spores to exit and spread, usually via the wind.
Uses of Puffballs
Most species of puffball mushroom are edible and can be grilled, fried or sautéed. Their largest, most mature stage before puffballs start sporulation is known as their "fruiting" stage. It is important to identify edible puffballs correctly to avoid an unpleasant experience or accidental poisoning with a different but similar-appearing mushroom. Slice the puffball open. It should be completely white all the way through, without the appearance of gills, a cap, or any yellow, green, black or brown coloration.
Elimination of Puffballs in Your Yard
Some homeowners dislike the appearance of puffball mushrooms in their yards. It is difficult to eliminate puffball mushrooms entirely, as the spores are extremely small. They will also likely be entrenched in the soil around the area where puffball mushrooms are appearing. You can remove the soil around this area, but this will be a great deal of trouble and effort. The best method of control is to catch the puffball mushrooms in their early stages of development and pick them off your lawn, as it will be nearly impossible to stop the spread of spores at the brown sporulation stage.