October 1, 2014

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See a fungus bigger than a person’s head!

GRAFTON — Ron Van Amburgh can cook a puffball mushroom a lot of ways, but his favorite is sauteed with steak. It turns out, he could have one heck of a barbecue on his hands.

On Thursday, Van Amburgh’s close friend and neighbor, Henry Husk, discovered a 10-pound puffball mushroom growing in a shady patch of grass on his aunt’s Grafton Road property.

“It’s just humongous,” Van Amburgh said. “I’m 70 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Ron Van Amburgh holds the giant mushroom growing in a neighbor’s yard.

Van Amburgh took the enormous mushroom to Larry’s Food and Deli in LaPorte to have it weighed. The mushroom weighed 10 pounds with a diameter of 43 inches and length of 21 inches.

“We’ll cut it open to see if the inside is too brown,” Husk said. “If not, we’re going to eat it.”

They better invite a lot of friends.

Tim Malinich, an extension agent at The Ohio State University Extension Office, did not recommend eating it.

“I’ll never tell someone they can eat a mushroom.” Malimich said. “That is the job of a mycologist. Consequences of a mistake can be terrible and even kill you.”

Malinich warned of a mushroom called the “false puffball” that looks like a traditional puffball but will do a number on internal organs.

In the field of fungi, Van Amburgh’s mushroom is known as the calvatia gigantea, Malinich said. The huge size of this mushroom is actually quite common, and giganteas have grown twice as big as Van Amburgh’s.

The Extension Office, however, hasn’t seen one that big before.

Typically puffballs grow to about the size of a baseball.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a mushroom the size of a small dog,” Malinich joked.

That doesn’t mean the extension office is seeing a shortage of weirdness. Strange growths, deformed fruits and vegetables, giant mushrooms and insects are just a few samples of the things people bring to the office.

Last week, Malinich had to talk a man out of letting the eggs of a black widow hatch when the man brought the trapped spider and its eggs into the office. The man’s wife sided with Malinich. Two to one vote, no black widow farm. 

Maybe Van Amburgh could vote on who’s buying the giant onion for his saute.

Contact Ben Norris at 329-7155 or metro@chroniclet.com.

This story was corrected Monday, Aug. 20.