By Madeline Perreard
Chilkat Valley News, Haines 

Haines bicyclist finds a 30-pound mushroom just off the highway

 

October 19, 2022 | View PDF

Courtesy of Liz Landes

Haines resident Liza Landes was on a bike ride when she thought she spotted a large rock off the highway - but it turned out to be a 30-pound mushroom.

Liz Landes found a 30-pound puffball mushroom while on a bike ride on the Haines Highway.

She said she was enjoying her bike ride when she spotted something unusual. "I looked up from the highway and saw what initially looked like a river rock," Landes said. "I turned back and hiked up the hill and was totally amazed. I didn't necessarily have the intention of taking it, but it broke off the ground more easily than I thought."

Landes had found a giant puffball mushroom, a fungi typically found in central and eastern North America. Equipped with only a backpack, she needed help bringing the mushroom home from her early October ride.

"I didn't have a strap long enough to attach it to my bike but I knew there were raft trips going that day," Landes said. "I held it under my arm and biked to 21 Mile. It was exhausting, I had to take many breaks. I left it with the Rainbow Glacier guides and they drove it back to town."

When the bounty was too large for Landes' fridge, she brought a third to her neighbor, Travis Kukull, a mushroom forager himself, who has a commercial-grade refrigerator.

"I had never seen one of those here," Kukull said. "There are whitish gray gem-studded puffballs or brown ones that are poisonous. I see those all the time, but never giant puffballs."

Calvatia gigantea, or giant puffballs, typically ranges from the size of a mini marshmallow to a soccer ball. The largest record of a giant puffball had a circumference of 8 feet, 8 inches and weighed 48 pounds.

"They get so big sometimes people see them in fields and mistake them for sheep," Kukull said. "It's bizarre."

Similar to tofu, giant puffballs are firm and flavorless. Kukull sliced his portion into steak-like sizes, poaching them in olive oil with garlic and herbs. Landes had a different approach to her preparation, whipping up a chocolate mousse, hummus, jerky and french toast.

"There's all kinds of weird recipes out there for nerdy mushroom heads," Kukull said. "They do all sorts of things with it."

After foraging a giant puffball, the finder should slice it open and check the interior. If the interior is white, it is safe to eat. If it is yellow or brown, it should be discarded. If a puffball yields more than your appetite can handle, dried puffball can be used as tinder for a fire.

 

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