Hedgehog mushrooms are an edible mushroom type native to Europe and North America. They are also called sweet tooth mushrooms, and wood hedgehog mushrooms. They have a distinctive lumpy shape, with caps whose undersides are covered with soft spikes, or teeth, that are reminiscent of the spiky fur of a hedgehog.
There are several different hedgehog species, all of which are of interest to the forager.
European Hedgehog Species
The most commonly found European species of hedgehog mushroom is Hydnum repandum, also known as the sweet tooth or wood hedgehog mushroom. Many people consider this to be the choicest type, with its sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Hydnum repandum can be found throughout Europe and is especially common in Scandinavia.
North American Hedgehog Species
Several similar species of hedgehog mushrooms grow in North America. They can be found in temperate zones in both Western and Eastern North America.
White Hedgehog Mushrooms
The first is the white hedgehog (Hydnum Albidium). These hedgehogs are white to pale gray, with flesh that bruises yellow when disturbed.
Giant Hedgehog Mushrooms
The second is the giant hedgehog (Hydnum Albomagnum). The giant hedgehog is distinguished by its large size, with caps up to seven inches across. These mushrooms have been seen in mixed woods as far south as Central America.
Belly Button Hedgehogs
Another species, the belly button hedgehog (Hydnum umbilicatum), gets its odd name from a slightly depressed indentation in its cap that looks like a navel. This species is also sometimes called the depressed hedgehog. Belly button hedgehogs are small mushrooms, quite a bit smaller than the white hedgehog and the giant hedgehog, with caps that range up to 1-2 inches in diameter.
Surprisingly, hedgehog mushrooms aren’t all that well known, at least in the US. But knowledgeable mushroom hunters consider these wild mushrooms to be a great find.
They are often compared to the chanterelle mushroom. Chanterelles grow in the same areas as hedgehogs, and they are often mixed in with each other. They also have a similar aroma and taste. Chanterelle mushrooms die off earlier in the Fall than hedgehogs, which means that hedgehogs will become even easier to see.
Hedgehog mushrooms offer versatility in the kitchen and a delightful flavor (the name sweet tooth is fitting) that is perfect with many dishes. We offer some cooking tips below.
Many people report that they have a slightly nutty taste. If you are interested in delicious edible mushrooms, you should definitely add the hedgehog mushroom to your repertoire.
And for some great hedgehog mushroom recipes, see our article Hedgehog Mushroom Recipes – How to Use Them?
Below we will give some tips on how to identify hedgehog mushrooms. But the information we provide below is only a starting point. NEVER consume any mushroom unless you are absolutely sure of its identity.
Every year people die after consuming poisonous mushrooms. And with some species, just one mushroom is enough to kill you.
If you are new to mushroom foraging, be sure to run your finds by someone who is experienced in foraging for mushrooms. If you are in the US, Canada, or Mexico, the North America Mycological Association (NAMA) has clubs in many cities and towns, and it is likely that there is a club near you. Visit their website to learn more.
And always carry a good field guide when you are looking for mushrooms. We are currently recommending Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms.
Two excellent mushroom field guides — if you can find them — are the Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America and the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Both are out of print, but you may be able to find a used copy on Amazon.
Make sure you know how to identify common poisonous mushrooms in your area, such as destroying angels or death caps, to rule out the possibility of picking one by mistake.
While our articles provide a great overview, please don’t rely solely on the internet to identify a mushroom. This isn’t a subject on which to take shortcuts.
With all that said, here is our overview of the hedgehog mushroom and how to identify them.
What Do Hedgehog Mushrooms Look Like?
Hedgehog mushrooms vary in color, from pale pink or salmon to a cream color, to yellow, to pale orange, or even dark orange.
Hedgehog mushroom caps are typically irregularly shaped, with flat, somewhat concave tops. The caps of hedgehog mushrooms grow to between 2 and 7 inches in diameter, depending on the species.
The gills (actually spike-like structures — more on that later) of the hedgehog mushroom can be found underneath the cap, and also range from cream to pink to brown in color.
Hedgehog mushrooms can vary quite a bit in both shape and color, from creamy yellow to light orange to orange-brown. The darker the color, the older the mushroom.
The Main Defining Characteristic of Hedgehog Mushrooms
Regardless of their shape, size, or color, there is one feature of hedgehog mushrooms that will never change – the spiky, hedgehog-like “spines” or teeth on the underside of the cap. These are actually the “gills.” Unlike other mushrooms, the hedgehog mushroom’s gills are like teeth, which makes them very easy to identify.
These small bristles are quite soft. They are detachable and will come off if you rub your fingers along them.
With their distinctive spikes or teeth underneath the caps, these are one of the easiest and safest mushrooms to identify, as there are no close poisonous lookalikes.
Of course, as we mentioned above, never eat a mushroom without being absolutely sure of its identity. If you haven’t foraged for hedgehog mushrooms before, then run your finds by someone with experience in identifying them, just to be sure.
Hedgehog Spore Prints
If you want to be double-careful (and you should be), you can make a spore print of your hedgehog mushroom to assist in identification. The process is actually quite easy. See our article on making spore prints to find out how.
Hedgehogs will leave a creamy-white spore print. Since hedgehogs don’t have gills, the spores will be distributed evenly on the paper, and not in a gill pattern.
Are Hedgehogs Mycorrhizal Mushrooms?
Yes, they are mycorrhizal fungi, meaning they form a symbiotic relationship with certain types of trees and plants. In this symbiotic relationship, the hedgehog mushroom provides its host with nutrients, and the host provides the mushroom with carbohydrates. Understanding this can help you to locate them.
Where Does the Hedgehog Mushroom Grow?
Hedgehog mushrooms are widely distributed and grow in many parts of eastern and western North America, and Europe. They grow in all kinds of temperate woodlands.
From forests filled with conifer trees to dense leafy areas with lots of leaf litter, mossy ground, and even wide-open spaces, hedgehog mushrooms have proven to be quite versatile in where they grow. This makes them easy to locate when foraging.
While the hedgehog mushroom grows in many places, they prefer moist, well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter.
They are most typically found around birch trees, beech trees, and other hardwoods and mixed woods, although if you keep an eye out for them in coniferous forests, you’re also likely to find them.
When Can Hedgehog Mushrooms Be Harvested?
You can harvest hedgehog mushrooms from late summer right up until the first hard frost in the early winter. In New England, they start appearing in mid-August and can be found right up through the middle of November.
When hunting for hedgehog mushrooms in the fall, pay attention to the fallen leaves; they could be hiding a hedgehog mushroom right under your feet!
Hedgehog Mushrooms and Chanterelles
Hedgehog mushrooms are often found growing in the same locations as chantarelle mushrooms.
You will start to see hedgehogs emerge among the chantarelles toward the end of the chanterelles’ growing season. And because they are resistant to the cooler temperatures of the fall, you will continue to find them for several weeks after chantarelles have withered away in the frost.
Hedgehog mushrooms also like their own company and often grow in creamy clumps. Make sure you step carefully once you have spotted a hedgehog mushroom. They are rarely found growing by themselves, and you will likely stumble upon more if you keep your eyes open. And remember that these mushrooms tend to regenerate in the same spot repeatedly. So, mark a location where you find them on your map!
Like chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms show strong resilience in the face of insects. Their solid, hearty stems and flesh make it difficult for predators to eat them.
What Does the Hedgehog Mushroom Taste Like?
With a pleasant smell, and a sweet, nutty flavor, hedgehog mushrooms taste delicious and are considered a choice wild mushroom for eating. They are tender, yet have a meaty, almost crunchy texture, and are considered by many foragers to be as good as chanterelles. Their alternate name, sweet tooth mushroom, is an appropriate name for them
Note that older, larger hedgehogs can develop a bitter taste; it’s best to leave them behind and pick only the younger, smaller ones. The best way to tell a hedgehog mushroom’s age is to feel the spines on the bottom of the caps. If they are firm, the mushroom is young and will be good.
Also, the younger hedgehogs will have a creamy white to salmon pink color. You will also see ones with orange caps and brown caps, but they are usually older and will have a bitter taste. So remember, stick to the creamy white and salmon pink ones.
Cooking Hedgehog Mushrooms
Hedgehog mushrooms can replace chantarelles in nearly any recipe, giving them versatility in your kitchen. They are perfect as a garnish for steaks, sauces, or gravies.
They are especially good when sautéed in butter until brown and served as a side dish, or on crackers.
Hedgehogs are also good in a stir fry. Try sautéeing them in oil with some chopped onions, and then adding your favorite vegetables. Zucchini and broccoli are good choices to go along with their nutty flavor. Then, throw in some chicken broth and let them simmer for a few minutes.
You won’t need to do much prep work with these mushrooms. Just wipe them with a damp paper towel, and slice the larger ones down to size, and they’ll be ready to cook.
Check out some hedgehog mushroom recipes in our article Hedgehog Mushroom Recipes – How to Use Them?
Preserving Hedgehog Mushrooms
Since hedgehog mushrooms tend to grow in groups, you may find yourself in the fortunate position of having more on your hands than you are able to use. Fortunately, they have a long shelf life due to their ability to withstand insect infestations. And they preserve well when pickled or frozen.
To store your hedgehogs, simply put them in a paper bag, and leave them in your refrigerator. They will last for two to three weeks.
If the hedgehogs are dirty, wipe them off with a dry paper towel, or a slightly damp paper towel if they are really muddy. That said, cleaning hedgehog mushrooms usually isn’t necessary.
If you do need to clean them, make sure that they have dried completely before you store them in paper bags.
You can pickle hedgehog mushrooms in vinegar and spices. They will last for several weeks before you need to use them. *Tip: before you pickle your hedgehog mushrooms, you might want to scrape off the spikes under the cap, as they can become bitter.
With their tender, meaty texture, hedgehog mushrooms freeze particularly well.
To freeze your hedgehogs, first, sauté them in butter, and then divide them into amounts that you will use in one meal. Let them cool down, and put each portion into a freezer-safe container or bag. You can then keep them in the freezer for several months, and they will be excellent in soups and stews.
Hedgehog mushrooms don’t dehydrate well because of their spikes. You can dehydrate them, but they tend to become grainy and fragile and are somewhat tasteless when reconstituted in water.
Wrapping It Up
These delicious and versatile mushrooms are a great addition to any mushroom forager’s list of wild mushrooms. They’re easy to identify and great to cook. Keep an eye out on your next hike, and you may get lucky.
Make sure to run your mushrooms past an experienced forager the first time you pick them, and then you should be good to go with these mushrooms!
Now that you have some ideas for finding them, take a look at our article on How to Cook Hedgehog Mushrooms.
If you’re interested in other edible mushrooms, take a look at our article on black trumpet mushrooms for another potential autumn find.
Or check out our article Common Edible Mushrooms, a Brief Guide for other foraging ideas.
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