Gyromitra gigas: Snowbank Mushroom

May 27, 2011 by     5 Comments    Posted under: Focus Ingredients, Mushrooms
Gyromitra gigas Snowbank Mushroom

Gyromitra gigas Snowbank Mushroom

What a tasty little find this is!  The Gyromitra gigas is related to the common gourmet Morel mushroom, and is classified as a False Morel.  It’s actually a very well known and sought after mushroom in the mushroom hunting community.  It has a flavor somewhat similar to morels, though not as pronounced.  It is a wonderful find that I always take one home when I find it.  But eat at your own risk!  Gyromitra gigas, as with all false morels, have amounts of poisonous toxins in them that can reak havock on your system in large quantities.  The toxicity varies by area though, so ask a local expect to determine what’s safe in your area.  For example, false morels are known to be highly toxic in Europe, but typically have a much smaller toxicity level in North America.  But whether you choose to eat this mushroom or just admire it while hiking around, Gyromitra Gigas is a beautiful treat that is a joy to find.

How to Identify Gyromitra gigis

The Snowbank Mushroom is easy to distinguish due to it’s brain-like look.  Key features to identify it are:

  • Grows in spring or early summer
  • The stalk is whitish in color, is thick and nearly as thick as the cap
  • The cap is brainlike and wrinkled but is never honeycombed with pits or lobes that project outward much
  • The cap is always attached to the stalk along its edges
  • The cap is yellow-brown to tan when young and fresh, but often turns reddish-brown or darker brown with age

It gets its common name of Snowbank because it grows on the ground, usually under conifer trees, near melting snow or where snow has recently melted.  I’ve only ever found them at the same higher elevations where morels grow, so go looking for them on your spring mountain hikes and adventures.

Edibility of Gyromitra gigas

Like morels, it should never be eaten raw due to dangerous toxins in it that can lead to stomach cramps, liver problems, and other more serious issues.  Some of it’s cousins contain much higher levels of these toxins, so make sure you identify it as Gyromitra gigas before you cook it up.

I have found that the Gyromitra gigas has too strong of flavor to enjoy in large quantities when deep fried or cooked up with eggs, but it is wonderful in creamy soups, beef stroganoff, or sauteed with garlic and herbs and served with steak.

If you find your morel hunting trip being too early in the season, switch gears and look for this beauty instead.  They are great and well worth the search.

The Bald Gourmet loves mushroom hunting.  Finding a firm Gyromitra gigis along the crest of melting snow is exciting and culinarily pleasing.

 

5 Comments + Add Comment

  • Hi,
    We have both G Esculenta and G Gigas here in south central Wyoming.
    I’ll never put Esculenta in a pan but every spring, May 6th here and
    Just collected a nice batch of Gigas…. we enjoy Gigas a couple
    To a few times a year.
    I dry them in a well ventilated room first. I then reconstitute
    Them in water and cooking sherry, then saute them for
    About 20 minutes with stove top fan on full. Then I’ll toss
    Them in an omelet with jalapeños, red peppers and some
    Grated swiss …. spectacular!
    I always show my eating partners articles, good and bad,
    About gyromitra species and let them make up their mind
    To join me or not.
    If at 90 years of age the cummulatve effects of eating
    G Gigas gets me … so be it!

    • Mitch, that is just awesome. Thanks for commenting and sharing your enjoyment of eating Gigas. It is just great that you’re still foraging at age 90! That’s how I want to be when I am “well seasoned”. Thanks again Mitch. Happy eating!

  • The Gyromitra giga, and all Gyromitra sp. are considered toxic.

    2 – 4% of all fatal mushroom poisonings are caused by this mushroom. The toxins build up in your body, and each of us has a different tolerance, until the dose is enough to sometimes kill us.

    You can read more about it here: http://chicagomushroomman.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/the-problems-with-the-use-of-common-names-and-commenting-in-public-forums/

    Here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1939997

    Here: Professor Tom Volk http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/may2002.html

    • Thank you for your comment, sources, and concern Rob. The poisoning deaths you’re referring to were nearly all in Europe, where the Gyromitra family has higher toxin levels than in North America. Professor Tom Volk even states this in his document you linked to. He also states that Gyromitra gigas has a very low level of toxidity, whereas Gyromitra esculenta has a very high level. I’ve eaten the esculenta’s, and they were delicious, but really not worth the hassel of parboiling them twice before cooking to eat. And though many people choose to eat them here in North American, the esculenta toxicity is much higher in Europe and is a definite “no no” there. As your sources state, many people throughout North American have been eating false morels for generations without ill effect. But as with all wild mushrooms, you should only pick and eat what you can absolutely 100% identify, and with the more risky species like false morels, consuming them is always “eat at your own risk” and should only be done in small quantities. Gigas is one of the lesser toxic fals morels from what I understand, and I stand by my post that they are delicious and worth trying once in a while.

  • I used this mushroom in my turkey with wild rice soup a couple days ago….very nice! Tastes even better today.

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