The Edible Mushroom That Can Grow Up To 100 Pounds

Giant mushrooms are usually the fare of fantasy worlds, not dream menus. But it turns out there could be some notable exceptions. Massive shrooms may not be so unrealistic, anyway, given that the biggest living creature to ever exist is a fungus, per Discovery. One connected grid of honey mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyae) — or the "humongous fungus," to some — spans almost 4 square miles in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It's not one weighty mass, though, but a bunch of individual, genetically identical shroom clones. Here, however, we're talking about a single mushroom that can grow to be 100 pounds.

How is it that mushrooms can get this big? According to Gourmet Mushrooms, the majority of fungi save all of their resources throughout the year, then use most of them up at once to balloon in size. Unlike the animal and plant kingdoms, those in the fungi kingdom don't use cell division when they're "fruiting" (growing big to spread their spores). Instead, these fun-guys just enlarge all the cells they already have by taking in a bunch of water. That's how mushrooms you didn't even know were present seem to magically pop into existence once it rains (especially when it's warm out).

The good news is that many fungi are edible, delicious, and nutritious. Generally, mushrooms have little calories or fat, but give you plenty of carbs, protein, and vitamins (via Gourmet Mushrooms). Who wouldn't want a hundred pounds of food like that?

Maitakes: massive and mouthwatering

Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) can weigh as much as 100 pounds, per Specialty Produce. They can be spotted via their velvety, wavy fronds, which range from white to brown. This appearance has led to the creation of other names for them, like Hen of the Woods, Ram's Head, and Sheep's Head. Perhaps the most delightful moniker for maitakes, however, is "dancing mushroom." Supposedly, the ancient lumberjacks and spiritual women who first found this fungus considered it so delicious that they frolicked about.

The subterranean stem of maitake fungi isn't readily edible, but it can be used to make mushroom stock. As for the rest of the fungus, its caps possess amino acids, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, vitamins, and more (via Specialty Produce). They're free of cholesterol and fat, low on calories and sodium, and are considered adaptogens, which bolster physical well-being, per Healthline.

These mushrooms can be added to a variety of dishes, from omelets, pastas, and pizzas to salads, soups, and stews. Tender and chewy, their flavor has some spice and a rustic taste when the mushrooms are cooked, but eating them fresh is also an option. You can even reduce the mushrooms to powder for seasoning on heartier, heavier dishes, or freeze them for later. Yet, simple fridge storage and papery wrappings are all it takes to keep them unspoiled for nearly a week — if you can fit them in. In more ways than one, these shrooms can seriously play a big role in your kitchen.