Hedgehog mushrooms are an edible mushroom type found in Europe and North America.
In North America, White Hedgehogs (Hydnum Albidium) and Giant hedgehogs (Hydnum Albomagnum) are most common. The smaller(Hydnum Repandum) is found mostly in Europe. All three types are edible.
Surprisingly, hedgehog mushrooms aren’t all that well known. But knowledgeable mushroom hunters consider them to be a great find.
They are often compared to the chanterelle mushroom. 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 mushrooms, you should definitely add hedgehog mushrooms 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 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 that you know how to identify common poisonous mushrooms in your area, such as destroying angels, 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 short-cuts.
With all that said, here is our overview of hedgehog mushrooms 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 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 (actually spikes — more on that later) 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.
We also recommend purchasing a good field guide if you plan to go mushroom hunting. Our favorite is The National Audobon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.
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 up until the first hard frost. 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, 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 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.
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. 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.
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 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!
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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