Olson’s Fungus Humongous

Bob Olson of rural Deer River could not believe the size of the giant puffball mushroom that his son Nathan Olson brought to his home recently.
Bob Olson of rural Deer River could not believe the size of the giant puffball mushroom that his son Nathan Olson brought to his home recently.

by Louise H. McGregor, staff writer
The discovery of a Calvatia gigantea, more commonly known as a giant puffball, created a stir of excitement in the Olson household recently.

“Can you believe it,” said Bob Olson of rural Deer River, “I weighed it this morning and it weighed 34 pounds.”

Jesse Miller, a friend of Olson’s son Nathan Olson, happened across the puffball in the Oteneagan area. He called Nathan to tell him about it and on Oct. 15 Nathan went out into the woods, picked it and brought it to his dad that afternoon.

Nathan said, “Dad, just look at this.” Bob was astounded by the size of it, as was his wife Nancy, who immediately named the mushroom without hesitation. She said, “It’s Fungus Humongous!”

Bob said, “I thought that was a cute and fitting name for this monster puffball.”

Olson had not yet measured the mushroom and that was done at his shop on Oct. 24. The mushroom was sitting on the passenger seat of his car as he took the measurements.

“It is 12 inches high, 21 inches in diameter and its circumference is 63 inches. That is five feet and three inches.” He could not believe that measurement and did it again. “Yes,” he said, “that is the correct measurement.”

Most giant puffballs, which can be found in late summer and autumn, grow to be from 3.9 inches to 28 inches in diameter, although occasionally some can reach diameters up to 59 inches and weights of 44 pounds, according to information obtained from Wikipedia. They are an edible mushroom if they have a white interior.

“The whole interior of this one is white,” said Bob, “there’s enough here to feed all of Deer River a sample!”

But, Olson doesn’t plan on cooking up the giant. He said, “I’ve already eaten my fill of puffball mushrooms. I wish I could figure out how to preserve it, as it is such an oddity, even more so since it is a bit late in the year for them to be around yet and still attached to their stem. This one had a stem about the size of my thumbnail.”