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This mushroom is the stuff of circus sideshows. The giant puffball mushroom Greg Schmaus pulled in Thursday, is about the size of a sofa cushion, and weighs in at almost 27 pounds.
The whopper is one of about 20 oversized puffs Schmaus discovered near Flescher Pass. His haul weighed in at about 80 pounds, and, since his discovery, Schmaus said, he's spent the last two days giving as many of the shrooms away as he can. And that's not been difficult.
One wide-eyed Wisconsin resident pulled his car over to admire the fungi, and left with a basketball-sized puffball.
"I hate to see them go to waste," Schmaus said, passing it through the man's passenger side window.
They make great steaks, dipped in butter with lemon pepper then grilled, said the Wisconsin man, rubbing his palms together, already planning his feast. Schmaus said personal favorite preparation is breaded - a little egg, salt, pepper and cracker crumbs, dipped quickly in hot oil. He and his family have already eaten their way through three.
Schmaus said he started collecting mushrooms after the Elkhorn fires of 1988. It was morels at first, then after some research, he took off in search of other edible mushrooms.
At least 10 different tasty varieties of mushrooms are out right now, Schmaus said. His favorites include the familiar meadow mushrooms, which look like the store-bought button mushrooms and morels as well as the somewhat rare King Bolete, known by gourmet chefs as Ceps.
"This has been a bumper year - it already has," he said.
Schmaus said mushroom hunting makes for a fun family outing, and, in an afternoon's picking, a family could harvest enough to have mushrooms for a year.
"They hear all these bad things about mushrooms, but there's only a handful that are poisonous," he added.