Monday, October 22, 2007

"The Mushroom That Ate My Brain"

Matt and his Puffball

My friend Matt in Minnesota sent me pictures of this mushroom that he found. Later today he called me for a chat and I begged him to tell me the details. I was totally fascinated by this queer oddity in nature, and even more aghast that he and his roommate, Rick consumed it!

He found this mushroom in their backyard one day while searching for the cat, Umbra. At first glance he thought that the white blob was a discarded grocery bag, but when he got closer he realized that it was a huge fungus. It looked like a head and had a gaping mouth that immediately reminded him of Audrey II from "Little Shop Of Horrors".

It just so happens that Rick had friends that had published a book called Start Mushrooming by Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg, and they were able to identify this colossus as an edible puffball (Calvatia gigantea). This puffball was in it's younger state. When they mature they become swollen with spores. All the time just sitting there hoping that something will come across it and burst it. This sends the spores out for future procreation. At this point in the life of the puffball it is poisonous. Ewww, very alien like. Does it have acid for blood? God, isn't nature just great? Better than most science fiction!

Matt also informed me that these usually grow in pairs or sometimes three. He stated that there were three indeed, but one was not fit for eating, and the other one was so small that he accidentally stomped the living daylights out of it with his foot!

So, upon the harvesting of this alien looking thing, they had already decided what they were going to make. They found a mushroom soup recipe, and then were going to cut hanks of it and make "steaks."

He also noted that it was rather hefty and had substantial weight. I don't think they they ever got the official weight or measurement of it. It was definitely bigger than his head, and for all of us who know Matt, that's huge! (Just teasing buddy! You know I love ya!)

He described the flavor as earthy but a little bland, and the texture is what really surprised him. "I'm not going to say that it was like tofu, because that just grosses me was like fresh mozzarella cheese. Very creamy." I suspect much to his chagrin that he didn't experience any hallucinogenic properties!

How interesting. I am just amazed that they just happened to have access to this book, took the chance to pluck it from it's home, chop it up and eat it! I don't think that I would be that adventurous. I mean, I have eaten a lot of weird things in my life, but this would be for me like playing Russian Roulette.

Maybe now that I know they haven't died or suffered serious side effects, I would try something they would make from this one. Which could very well happen, because they weren't able to eat it all in one sitting. Or even a couple sittings. The rest of the 'shroom rests comfortably in cryonic suspension for a later day. All I need to do is get a plane ticket now!

I think I need to do more research on this gastronomical phenomenon. Being the scientist at heart, I bombarded him with all sorts of questions. Like he's a mycologist or something! I just love stuff like this!

When I look at these pictures it makes me chuckle. It's a bit comical to see a what-seems common thing so large like this. Kind of like putting us in the perspective of being a mouse and stumbling upon a huge piece of cheese or something.

"Yo dude...look what I found! We can feast for months!"


Albert said...

Shrooms! I love shrooms! Thanks for bringing the foody blog back.

Anonymous said...

This is Matt's roommate, Rick. This mushroom was so awesome - I had never seen anything like it. We chopped up 8 cups of mushrooms for the soup mentioned and that was only about 1/4 of the entire huge monster. Thanks for writing the article - it is very well done. I also emailed the link to my friend, Karen -- one of the co-authors of Start Mushrooming - I'm sure she will appreciate it also. Glad you are safe and sound, Diane!

Carmen said...

Remember that god awful mushroom that we taste tested at the farmer's market in Cherry Creek?

This mushroom was a BEAST!

Diane said...

Albert: I'm glad to be back now that I have a little time to do one of the things that I enjoy so much...cook!

Rick: Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you liked the story! I hope you don't mind that I took your title.

Carmina Burana: Ewww, I still have that taste in my mouth!

Anonymous said...

Follow-up to the big 'shroom... The frozen mushroom started getting quite an odor. When removing from the freezer, thawing, and using in dishes, it kinda stunk and had an unpleasant taste. Matt indicated that it kinda smells and tastes like old gym socks. Indeed, that hits the odor on the head!

Needless to say, the rest of the frozen large mushroom containers made their way out of the freezer and into the trash.

Sad, as when the mushroom was fresh, it was so good!

- Rick

Delia said...

WOW!! I just found three of these guys while taking my woodland walk with my two dogs! Edible!! I hope they are in good form when I find them again tomorrow...I will definitly try it out! Can they be preserved by any other method for future freshness? or must you serve it all at the's such a waste for one person!

Delia MN 9-22-08

Anonymous said...

We get puffballs every now and then on our property. I finally worked up the courage to cook and eat one. It smelled like white mushrooms, and did have a texture almost tofu like when cooked. It was great! My first mushroom foraging attempt :)