Have you ever heard of the hedgehog mushroom? This fungus is truly delicious and has a strong structure. Also called the sweet tooth mushroom, it is very easy to identify this wild fungus that is a relative of the golden chanterelle. If you are starting your journey into harvesting and hunting, then this is the right mushroom to look for.
What is the hedgehog mushroom?
The hedgehog mushroom is a wild fungus that grows in damp woodlands. This mushroom is common in France, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, but may also be found in North America.
There are two species of hedgehog that you will likely see; the “small ones” known as Hydnum umbilicatum, and the “big ones”, known as Hydnum repandum. Both kinds are equally tasty with a somewhat earthy and smoky quality to them.
Hedgehog mushroom identification
Like their relative, the golden chanterelle, the hedgehog mushroom tends to reappear around the same trees every year. It grows in multiple groups around trees, usually oaks, conifers, and huckleberry bushes. When you happen to see them in the wild, you may find that they appear in the hundreds. You will likely find these mushrooms between August and December.
To identify them correctly, be sure to look for a pale cap, sometimes ranging from a light pink color to cream. The weird-looking cap will be between 4-20 cm wide, and very thick. These mushrooms also have several stems fused together and small spines under the cap.
As other wild mushrooms do, this one helps the surrounding trees uptake minerals and water from the earth. In exchange, it will take sugar and energy from the tree. However, you will find that the hedgehog grows very slowly, as they release spores over time. These fungi are also resistant to bad weather and bugs, as opposed to other fast-growing mushrooms.
Hedgehog mushroom look alike’s
The closest look-alike is the Hydnum rufescens, which happens to be smaller and more cream and tan in color. The spines of this mushroom may be joined or free from the stem, instead of having many of them like the hedgehog does.
When you happen to see a very small and salmon pink or light orange mushroom, you may be seeing the Hydnum rufescens look-alike instead.
On the other hand, if you happen to see a hedgehog-looking mushroom that has a depression or hole in the middle, then this is the depressed hedgehog, or h.umbilicatum.
Both these mushrooms are edible, but they do not have as many nutrients and flavor as their cousin the hedgehog.
Other similar species are the white hedgehog, or Hydnum albidum, and the giant hedgehog, or Hydnum albomagnum. The white hedgehog is usually pale to slightly yellow, with a grey stem. The giant hedgehog is very large and much paler in color.
How to clean your hedgehog mushroom
Once you have identified the correct hedgehog to take home, you should cut the base of the stem quickly, without ripping the mushroom from the dirt. While you can use a knife for a cleaner cut, you will not really need one.
Place your harvested mushrooms in a basket and never inside a closed bag, as this can speed up the degradation process. When you are home, the first thing to do is look for dirt stuck under the cap of the mushroom.
To remove the dirt, be sure to hold the mushroom by the stem and then tap the cap. This movement will allow the dirt to fall out. However, you may find that with larger hedgehog mushrooms, like the sweet tooth hedgehog, you can rub the spines off and wash the whole mushroom. Use a bit of water and a soft brush if necessary, careful not to oversoak them.
How to cook your hedgehog mushroom
As mentioned earlier, the hedgehog mushroom will turn out like the golden chanterelle, so you can cook it similarly. The flavor of the hedgehog is different, and it tastes more earthy and meaty.
Be sure to find a hedgehog that looks strong, thick, and not wrinkled. They tend to be brittle and can crumble easily. That means you can easily turn it into a powder, sauce, or soup.
One of the easiest ways to prepare hedgehog mushrooms is to clean them and sauté them in oil or butter. All you need to do is add the fat to a skillet and then cook the mushrooms for a few minutes. If you want, add garlic, salt, and pepper, or herbs, like dill, oregano, thyme, and basil.
Another common way to prepare hedgehog mushrooms is to prepare them in risotto, or a paste, and then add it to bread.
Preserving hedgehog mushrooms
While most wild mushrooms can be dried easily, these mushrooms do not always dry perfectly. Still, you can try to use your dehydrator, and dry them for a few hours. Allow them to cool down, then store them in an airtight container or bag in a dry and cool place. When you are ready to use them, you can simply place them in water, let them re-hydrate for a few minutes, drain them, and then add them to your cooking as if they were fresh.
You should know, though, that the flavor and texture change once you dry this mushroom. In any case, if that is your only preservation option, you may want to consider turning your dry mushrooms into a fine powder to add to soups, sauces, broth, stews, and more.
To do this, simply grab your dried mushrooms and put them in a food processor or blender. Blend them for a few minutes, until they turn into the powder of the thickness you desire. Store this powder in an airtight container, as you would any other spice or seasoning.
In other cases, people like to pickle these mushrooms, since they are sturdy and thick. To do this, use vinegar of choice, herbs, and salt. Cook your mushrooms first, and then pack them in your prepared jars. You can also process them for a few minutes. Always allow your jars to cool down, leaving a bit of headspace at the top and then storing them in a cool and dry place or the fridge.
Finally, if it is easier, you can freeze your mushrooms. As with other fungi, we would not suggest that you freeze them as they are. Instead, cook them with a bit of oil quickly, allowing them to soften and give off their aroma. You can then allow them to cool down and flash freeze them on a baking sheet. Once they are frozen, you should transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag and keep them stored for as long as six months to a year.
When you are ready to use your frozen mushrooms, you can thaw them overnight in the fridge. If you are preparing a soup, sauce, broth, or stew, you could add them frozen to the cooking process without much problem.
Are you ready to look for the hedgehog mushroom?
Whenever you feel adventurous, this is the right mushroom to try. Not only is it easy to find in the correct areas and season, but it can also be a delicious ingredient to add at home. Follow these tips and tricks, and your hedgehog mushroom recipes will turn out great!
Now that you’ve learned about this wonderful mushroom, you might want to check out this article about The 9 Facts About Lobster Mushrooms!