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'I had my mushroom eyes on': Cyclist finds elusive giant puffball near Haines, Alaska

Since then, she's had mushroom stir fry, mushroom jerky and mushroom French toast. She's had it blended into chocolate mousse and hummus.

At 11 to 13 kilograms, the mycological marvel was too big to fit in Liz Landes' fridge

A woman in a bicycle helmet grins as she lifts a gigantic white mushroom.
Liz Landes found this giant puffball mushroom while she was riding her bike outside of Haines, Alaska. (Submitted by Liz Landes)

If Liz Landes hadn't spent so much time foraging for mushrooms this year near Haines, Alaska, she might have missed the mycological discovery of the season.

"I just happened to look up onto the grassy slope above me and said, 'That's a really weird place for a river rock to be,' because there's a big, smooth, white object sitting in the middle of the slope," she said.

"I had my mushroom eyes on ... I couldn't pass this weird thing without going back to it."

It was a rare giant puffball — a round mushroom so big and meaty that those lucky enough to find them often cut them into steaks. Like their smaller counterparts, giant puffballs are a smooth white colour inside if they're still fresh enough to eat.

Landes' discovery weighed in at between 11 and 13 kilograms, "like an oblong beach ball," she said — the biggest mushroom she's ever foraged.

"I didn't know they existed here."

Neither did other people she's spoken to. The reaction from her friends, she said, was "total disbelief."

"That was just growing by the side of the road. That's incredible."

Landes found it while cycling along the Chilkat River, about 30 kilometres outside Haines. It was too much mushroom to fit in her backpack, so Landes balanced it on her leg for an awkward mile while she cycled back to a parking lot where she found someone she knew to drive it back to town for her.

It was too much mushroom for her fridge, too — she gave about a third of it to a gourmet chef who lives next door.

Since then, she's had mushroom stir fry, mushroom jerky and mushroom French toast. She's had it blended into chocolate mousse and hummus.

Of all of those, she said the jerky was the best.

"I wasn't sure about it at first, but I wish that I had turned the whole mushroom into jerky. That was by far my favourite," she said.

"The possibilities are endless, especially when you have that much to deal with."

With files from Marc Winkler

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