“Edible Wonder: The Gigantic Mushroom in Symbiotic Harmony with Termites Continues to Grow”

In the world of edible mushrooms, size doesn’t always matter. However, in West Africa and Zambia, there exists a unique species that stands out due to its enormous size, dwarfing all other mushrooms in the region.

Mushroom-gathering is a significant activity in Zambia, and the locals hold Termitomyces titanicus in high esteem. This particular mushroom species is considered the largest edible mushroom worldwide, with a cap diameter that can surpass one meter. Despite being a common item in native markets, Western science remained unaware of its existence until 1980. It’s worth noting that while Armillaria, the biggest fungus known to man, currently devours a thousand hectares in Oregon, it is not edible.

This particular family from Zambia recently acquired a massive specimen of the Termitomyces mushroom, while traveling on the route leading to the country’s capital city. The name of this genus is derived from the fact that the mushrooms grow inside termite mounds. These mushrooms have an exclusive partnership with termites, and they grow on their excreta, which breaks down plant matter into food for them. Furthermore, the decayed tissue of these mushrooms also serves as a food source for the termites. In exchange, the fungi get a continuous supply of plant material, in an environment with an ideal temperature and moisture content for their growth.

The reason behind the enormous size of mushrooms is not only due to their ability to acquire a significant amount of resources from termite colonies but also because they need to spread enough spores to attract the suitable termite species. In savanna ecosystems, there may be a patchy distribution of termite mounds, and thus, the fungus has developed one of the biggest mushrooms on earth to increase its chances of finding a suitable substrate. The more spores the mushroom produces, the higher the possibility of attracting initial termite foragers to locate them.

The Termitomyces titanicus mushroom, discovered in a village near Upemba National Park, thrives during the rainy season – the best time for mushroom hunting. These mushrooms have a thick texture and a delicious smoky flavor that many find irresistible. What’s more, just one cap of this mushroom is enough to feed an entire family.

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