Vascellum pratense – an edible puffball

A very common sight in lawns in autumn in WA is Vascellum pratense, a small white puffball that grows no more than about 50 mm across.  If you pick one of these when it is new, the interior is white and is has a mushroom smell.   Later on the inside becomes a mass of brown spores that emerge through a hole in the top.  The sheer quantity of spores released by these mushrooms is so vast that one can only imagine the success rate of germination and formation of a new colony is extremely small.   Investigations of other puffballs support this conclusion.

As it is rather difficult to photograph this mushroom in situ, I have taken a few pictures of one that I have picked.  Here it is as it has been freshly picked from a lawn:

Vascellum pratense as picked

Vascellum pratense as picked

When cut in half, the mushroom shows two distinct zones:

Sectioned specimen showing two zones

Sectioned specimen showing two zones

The upper surface has a fine warty texture:

Texture of upper surface

Texture of upper surface

Examining a specimen day after picking, the outer surface takes on a slightly gold colour if it is rubbed hard with a finger.  The inside flesh also shows a very faint yellow when bruised.

To eat these, it is recommended that they be picked before the top zone begins to turn into a spore mass.   In other words, while the flesh is all white.  They are not considered to be a particularly desirable edible.   I fried some up in oil, where they browned very quickly, and then incorporated them in an omlette.  The taste was not unpleasant.  There did appear to be an after taste that suggested a flavour enhancing effect.

Comment, May 2016

I think it is important to cook them while they are very fresh.  I left some overnight and they softened slightly and the taste took on a slightly bitter edge.

These are quite a distinctive species.  The main thing to be careful of is not to confuse them with the genus Scleroderma.   There is one suggestion that the skin should be removed prior to cooking.   I didn’t do this however.

These can be a problem for greenkeepers when they colonise bowling greens or golf greens.  Here is an example of such an invasion on the bowling green at Nannup in May 2016.

circle of pratense

Fairy rings of Vascellum pratense on the bowling green at Nannup

6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Glenda said,

    Morrie, I will keep a look out for it, though you didn’t sell it too well ‘they were not unpleasant’ ….

    • 2

      morrie2 said,

      Perhaps you might be able to do something a bit more creative with them Glenda? You have to work fast with these as they start to turn into a spore mass quite quickly. I’d like the hear your opinion on the taste if you get a chance.

  2. 4

    Levi said,

    I love them cooked with a bit of good olive oil and garlic or chives.

  3. 5

    jsunlau said,

    These are common in Qld lawns, I find collecting really firm is key. Qld also has Calvatia lilacina about the size of a softball fruiting in conjunction with the Woodford Folk Festival which you can pretty much guarantee heavy rains every year (December). Another one Lycoperdon perlatum has become my favourite. Recently I found several varieties of larger puffballs in Sydney growing with Casuarina. So far I’ve not found reference to them.

    • 6

      morrie2 said,

      Thanks for that. The list of edibles goes on and on. I haven’t noticed Calvatia lilacina, but it is recorded in various spots in WA so I will keep an eye out for it. The same goes for Lycoperdon perlatum.


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