While driving around in April, I noticed for the first time this year some rather large puffballs growing around the place. Here is what they looked like.
When cut open, these revealed a firm white flesh with a pleasant mushroom smell. They lacked a ‘sterile base’ which is the bit at the bottom close to the attachment point to the ground. The lizard skin pattern was also distinctive. On standing, they developed a purple spore mass. All of these factors together led me to identify them as Calvatia fragilis, which was subsequently confirmed by DNA analysis (97% AJ684871).
The picture below shows the specimen torn open. There is a slight yellowing when it is bruised. It has a distinct skin.
Calvatia fragilis torn open
The next picture shows another view of the surface of the puffball.
Surface of Calvatia fragilis
Some people say that all white puffballs in Australia are edible. This is not true as many years ago I found a massive white puffball growing next to a mulga tree in Hopetoun that had an extremely unpleasant smell. When I heated some up it caused us to evacuate the kitchen!
Calvatia fragilis is edible though and I sliced this one and fried it in butter. The taste reminded me a little of eggs.
A walk in a pine plantation in WA during winter will often reveal a truffle-like fungus lying on the top of the ground or sometimes almost buried.
This is Rhizopogon, introduced with the pine trees and a very effective fungus for assisting the pines to grow. The mycelium from fungi such as these acts as an extension of the roots of the trees, drawing in nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable to the trees.
Many sources report that the species occurring here are Rhizopogon luteolus but DNA results on the specimen pictured above match R. pseudoroseolus (GQ267483). This species, an introduction from the USA is also very common in New Zealand, though the appearance does not appear to match either the image nor the key published by Jerry Cooper of the Fungal Network of New Zealand. There are many different species, lots of variability and many published revisions of this genus so it does make identification difficult.
In Japan, a member of this genus, Rhizopogon roseolus is much prized as a food where is it known as Shoro. The Kiwis, always much more proactive on these matters than we are, have done some comparisons on the species growing in New Zealand with those in Japan and have gone so far as introducing the Japanese species into NZ as a potential agricultural product.
This is not an easy fungus to identify visually and there is sparse information about edibility. My friend Jsun has eaten a species that grows in Queensland and while visiting here he pickled some that I had collected. These are shown in the picture below. He has selected specimens that were firm and had a white interior when cut in half. When pickled, the outside became quite distinctly reddish.
Pickled Rhizopogon pseudoroseolus
I have eaten small quantities of these and must say that they are rather bland. Jsun reports that he likes to add them to stews and so forth and that they soak up the flavor of the dish.
See also: https://mushroaming.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/rhizopogon-rubescens/