Hedgehog mushrooms – also known as sweet tooth mushrooms and wood hedgehogs, aren’t all that well known. But knowledgeable mushroom foragers consider them a great find. They are often compared to the chanterelle mushrooms. They grow in the same areas, often mixed in with each other, and they have a similar aroma and taste.
Hedgehog mushrooms offer versatility in the kitchen and a delightful flavor that is perfect with many dishes. If you are interested in wild mushroooms, you should definitely add hedgehog mushrooms to your repertoire.
What Do Hedgehog Mushrooms Look Like?
Hedgehog mushrooms vary in color, from pale pink or salmon to a cream color, to yellow or even dark orange. Their caps are typically irregularly shaped, with flat, somewhat concave tops. The caps of hedgehog mushrooms grow to between 2 and 7 inches in diameter. The gills of the hedgehog mushrooms can be found underneath the cap, and also range from cream to pink to brown in color.
Hedgehogs can vary quite a bit in both shape and color.
Regardless of their shape, size, or color, there is one feature of hedgehog mushrooms that will never change – the spiky, hedgehog-like “spines” on the underside of the cap. These small bristles are detachable and will come off if you rub your fingers along them.
With their distinctive spikes on the bottom, these are one of the easier mushrooms to identify, as there are no close look-alikes.
Of course, 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 who has more experience identifying them.
That said, once you have learned the key points of hedgehogs, you will have a safe choice for foraging.
Where Do They Grow?
Hedgehog mushrooms are widely distributed and can be found in many parts of North America and Europe. They grow in all kinds of damp woodlands. From forests filled with fir trees, to dense leafy areas, mossy ground, and even in wide-open spaces, hedgehog mushrooms have proven to be quite versatile in where they grow and where they can be found. This makes them an easy mushroom to locate and identify when foraging.
Hedgehogs are most typically found around birch trees, beech trees, and other hardwoods. They can be harvested from mid-August right into November. When hunting for hedgehog mushrooms in the fall, pay attention to the fallen leaves that could be hiding a patch of these mushrooms right under your foot!
Hedgehog mushrooms are often found growing in the same locations as chantarelle mushrooms. Because they are resistant to the cooler temperatures of the fall, you will start to see hedgehogs emerge among the chantarelles toward the end of the chanterelles’ growing season. And then you will find them for several weeks after the chantarelles have withered away in the frost.
Hedgehog mushrooms also like the company of their own and will often be found growing in creamy clumps. Make sure you step carefully once you have spotted a hedgehog mushroom. They are rarely found growing by themselves, and you are likely to stumble upon more if you keep your eyes open.
Also, keep in mind that these mushrooms tend to regenerate in the same spot over and over again. So, be sure to 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 Do Hedgehog Mushrooms Taste Like?
With a pleasant smell, and a sweet, nutty flavor, hedgehog mushrooms rate are considered a choice eating mushroom. They have a tender yet meaty texture and are considered by many foragers to be as good as chanterelles.
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 color; the orange and brown ones are usually older and will have a bitter taste.
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 a good choice. Then, throw in some chicken broth and let them simmer for a few minutes.
You will not 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.
Preserving Hedgehog Mushrooms
Since hedgehog mushrooms tend to grow in groups, you may find yourself with more on your hands than you are able to use. Fortunately, they preserve well when pickled or frozen.
Hedgehog mushrooms can be pickled in vinegar and spices, and 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 be 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 they are 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 them past an experienced forager the first time you pick them, and then you should be good to go with these mushrooms!
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