Antonio D'Ambrosio gently separated a four-kilogram mushroom from the base of a gum tree in a nature reserve in Deakin on Saturday morning, his mouth watering at the thought of tasty toppings they would make for home-made pizza.
Antonio visits favourite spots sprinkled across the ACT's bushland during wet autumns, where he has plucked numerous smaller mushrooms and the occasional plate-sized one from the soil, but not as grand as this four-kilogram whopper.
"When there is a lot of water, especially near pine trees, there are lots of mushrooms," he says. In Italy, where he grew up, the mushrooms had a hole in the middle and were ideal for barbecues.
His wife Giuseppena will slice up this giant and mix the pieces with salami slices. Antonio reckons there's enough mushroom for at least 25 pizzas and left overs for spaghetti sauce - enough for the many friends who have invited themselves to dinner on hearing of his windfall.
ACT Health warns against picking wild mushrooms because of the Death Cap mushroom's tragic record in Canberra. The deadly poisonous fungus often grows near established oak trees, and is found when the weather is warm and wet. In Canberra this usually occurs in autumn but there is no specific mushroom season, according to ACT Health's website, and no amount of cooking makes them safe to eat.
Antonio, a shoemaker by trade who came to Canberra in 1956, says the smell and the way garlic reacts with the fungi during cooking indicates whether a mushroom is safe to eat. If the garlic turns brown they are poisonous. In 2012, two people died after eating death cap mushrooms in Canberra.