Giant Puffballs

Big balls of fungi are cropping up across Quebec, to foragers’ delight: Mélanie Greffard and her husband usually head out to a nearby forest or the Eastern Townships to forage for mushrooms. So the pair had quite the surprise when they stumbled upon a Calvatia gigantea — a giant puffball the size of two basketballs in their backyard near downtown Quebec City last week. It weighed in at nearly six kilograms.

“At first, it’s almost kind of scary, like, ‘What is this thing?'” Greffard said, laughing. “We were really impressed with how big it was.” Giant puffballs are large mushrooms, edible when fresh, that grow on grassy areas, often on lawns or fields. They typically appear in August and September, but puffballs the size of Greffard’s are a rare find. Greffard, who grew up in the countryside, credits her mother with getting her interested in mushroom-picking as a child.

She said this discovery was pure luck. “We’re right in the heart of Quebec City … and nature is all around us. It’s just right there, in our backyard,” she said. “It’s just really cool to see that.” Greffard found a puffball at the same spot last year, but it was in its “puffing stage,” which is when the fungus begins to change colour inside and starts producing spores and is no longer edible. So she was happy when she saw that this one was firm inside and “very nice and white,” a sign it’s still good to eat.

Climate Change Food & Agriculture

Berries in Canada

U.S. fruit sellers look to Canada for berry production amid drought, rising costs: As climate change makes traditional growing areas like California more costly, producers are looking north.

American berry giant Driscoll’s has partnered with Sébastien Dugré, co-owner of Massé Nursery in Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford, Que., to test whether commercial production of blackberries and raspberries is viable in the province. Quebec’s colder climate can limit berry crops, so growing them on a larger scale is unusual for that part of Canada. Dugré started the trials last year, and was able to harvest almost 80 tonnes of fruit this year.

“There’s definitely a learning curve. Last year was rough, this year is way better, we’ve got better fruit,” he said. Dugré is using dome-like tunnels to protect the plants from rain, while creating a microclimate that is warmer for the plants. It all helps him to start earlier in the spring and end later in the fall, extending the growing season. “There’s big companies interested in doing business in Canada … to me that’s a good opportunity,” said Dugré.