Mammoth mushroom find thrills Vancouver couple
'This will be a year-plus supply for me, much more for friends and family as well'
Mushroom pickers are known for being secretive when foraging for their favourite fungi, but Olya Kutsiuruba said her husband, David Swab, was anything but quiet when he came upon their latest find Thursday.
"He lets out this shriek and jumps back and essentially starts beaming and then just slowly waves me over and says, 'Look under here,'" Kutsiuruba said.
"So I move this brush back and we find this enormous, enormous King Bolete and promptly start to just laugh hysterically because it is the biggest mushroom we've ever seen."
The mushroom clocks in at 2,922 grams (almost 7 pounds) and is roughly the size of a basketball.
"It's perfect. It's intact. It has been sitting in this beautiful little ecosystem in this underbrush, untouched," she said. "We just got really giddy and happy and couldn't stop squealing and laughing."
Kutsiuruba was coy about the exact location of the mushroom discovery, but said it was found in the forests along the Sea to Sky corridor where mushrooms flourish in the alpine terrain.
While fall is typically the busy season for mushroom pickers, mushroom expert Paul Kroeger, a past president of the Vancouver Mycological Society, says this year has been particularly favourable.
"We had a couple of very poor years, very droughty years where a lot of mushrooms were unable to fruit," Kroeger said.
Some of these mushrooms have been storing food underground for a while, he said, and are now getting a chance to produce a large above-ground mushroom fruiting body — the cap and stem structure of mushrooms — using all those built-up resources.
"We're finding in various species outsized specimens popping up."
Kroeger says the King Bolete mushroom of the size found by Kutsiuruba and Swab does occur periodically, although the tastier specimens are usually smaller, roughly the size of a billiard ball.
Kutsiuruba, whose roots are in Ukraine and comes from an avid mushroom-picking family, says the King Bolete is a favourite among her family.
"Immediately when [the mushroom] hits the pan with a little bit of olive oil and you start caramelizing some onions, it makes the house smell like you have had a roast cooking the whole day," she said. "They have this really complex almost meaty taste and smell and flavour."
She's hoping to use the mushroom to flavour stocks and soups.
"This will be a year-plus supply for me, much more for friends and family as well," she said, laughing.
Warning to mushroom pickers
However, Kroeger said it is important to note mushroom picking comes with its dangers, especially in light of a warning issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control about deadly death cap mushrooms.
"If you see mushrooms, just stand back enjoy them and appreciate how they look and don't try to eat things that you encounter unless you're absolutely sure it's safe, edible and worthwhile."
For those interested in learning more about mushrooms, Kroeger says the Vancouver Mycological Society's annual mushroom show at the Vandusen Botanical Gardens takes place on October 21.