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.
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