Hedgehog mushrooms are a popular choice among foragers and mushroom enthusiasts, as they are not only easily identifiable but also delicious in various recipes and dishes.
Known by several names such as sweet tooth, wood hedgehog, and pied de mouton, the true mushroom refers to the species Hydnum repandum. The most distinctive feature of these fungi, which sets them apart from other mushroom varieties, is the presence of spines instead of gills on their caps.
Their taste and texture make them a versatile and sought-after ingredient in many dishes. With their easy identification and rich flavor profile, these mushrooms are definitely worth getting to know.
Read on to learn all about the hedgehog mushroom and how to best incorporate it into your own culinary creations!
Hedgehog Mushroom Overview
Hydnum repandum, commonly known as the sweet tooth, wood hedgehog, or hedgehog mushroom, is a basidiomycete fungus of the family Hydnaceae. It is the type species of the genus Hydnum and was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The distinct characteristic of these mushrooms is their spore-bearing structures, which are in the form of spines instead of gills.
The caps of Hydnum repandum can grow to between 2 and 7 inches in diameter and are typically irregularly shaped, with flat, somewhat concave tops. They have a variety of colors, ranging from pale pink, salmon, cream, yellow, to pale or dark orange.
Hydnum umbilicatum, also known as the depressed hedgehog, is another species of hedgehog mushrooms found in the Pacific Northwest. They are characterized by their “belly-button” shape or indentation on the top of the cap. These mushrooms are a conifer associate and are typically found during the winter months.
Like the Hydnum repandum, Hydnum umbilicatum has spore-bearing structures in the form of spines instead of gills. The size of their caps is generally smaller, rarely exceeding 6-8 inches in diameter. The cap colors can range from creamy white, tan, lightly orange, to deep orange, with irregularly rounded caps being common.
When foraging for these mushrooms, it’s essential to be familiar with their unique characteristics to distinguish them from other mushroom species. These mushrooms are not only prized for their taste but also for their interesting appearance and distinctive taxonomy within the genus of Hydnum.
Identification and Physical Features
Hedgehog mushrooms are relatively easy to identify due to their unique characteristics.
The cap of a hedgehog mushroom can range in color from creamy white to tan, and sometimes to a deep orange. They generally have irregularly rounded caps, which can be up to 6-8 inches in diameter.
In some species of these mushrooms, such as the depressed hedgehog, the cap might have an indentation or “belly-button” shape on the top.
Hedgehog mushrooms have a stout, thick stem that further distinguishes them from other mushroom species. The stem is usually round in cross-section and can be 0.8-2.4 inches long.
One of the most distinctive features of hedgehog mushrooms is the presence of spines instead of gills on the underside of the cap. These spines, which can easily detach and break off if you run your finger over them, make hedgehog mushrooms relatively easy to identify even for novice foragers.
When foraging hedgehog mushrooms, it’s essential to keep the following key identification features in mind:
- Caps that range in color from creamy white to tan or deep orange.
- Irregularly rounded caps, sometimes with an indentation on the top.
- Thick, stout stem that is round in cross-section.
- Presence of spines on the underside of the cap, rather than gills.
Ecology and Distribution
The ecology and distribution of the hedgehog mushroom vary across different regions. Its mycorrhizal relationship with partner trees helps in the uptake of water and minerals, particularly phosphorus.
In North America, hedgehog mushrooms can be found in mixed forests, often growing near hardwoods and conifers. These fungi are particularly resistant to insects and slugs, making them more prevalent compared to other mushroom species. Several North American species of the hedgehog mushroom, such as Hericium erinaceus, are commonly found in the region.
In Europe, hedgehog mushrooms are widespread, especially in Britain. They can also be found in mixed forests, forming symbiotic relationships with various tree species. The wood hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) is one of the most common species in Europe.
Hedgehog mushrooms have a worldwide distribution, with some species endemic to certain areas. In Australia, for example, these fungi can be found in eucalypt and Nothofagus-dominated forests. Studies have shown that the Hedgehog mushroom genus (Hydnum) has a significant disjunct distribution pattern, indicating a unique evolutionary history and adaptation to different ecological niches.
Edibility and Culinary Uses
Hedgehog mushrooms are delicious and edible mushrooms with a unique nutty flavor. They have no poisonous lookalikes, making them a safer option for foraging enthusiasts.
These wild mushrooms typically grow in a symbiotic relationship with trees and can be found in late summer and autumn.
The caps of Hedgehog mushrooms can be convex or concave in shape, ranging from pale white to salmon pink in color.
To prepare them for cooking, it’s essential to clean them thoroughly and remove any dirt or debris. Once cleaned, you can slice or chop them according to your recipe.
When cooking hedgehog mushrooms, consider using ingredients such as garlic, salt, pepper, unsalted butter, and olive oil to enhance their natural flavors. It’s best to cook the mushrooms in a frying pan over medium heat. Start by melting the butter and olive oil, then add finely chopped onion, letting it caramelize before adding the mushrooms. You can also add herbs like thyme and fresh parsley for extra flavor.
Some popular recipes featuring hedgehog mushrooms include the following:
- Pasta with Hedgehog Mushrooms: Cook the mushrooms as described above, toss with your favorite pasta, adding freshly grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped parsley to garnish.
- Hedgehog Mushroom Risotto: Incorporate sautéed hedgehog mushrooms into a creamy Arborio rice risotto, seasoned with garlic, white wine, and Parmesan cheese.
- Wood Hedgehog and Chanterelle Soup: Combine both chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms in a hearty mushroom soup, using a homemade vegetable or chicken stock as the base. Consider adding carrot, celery, onion, and fresh herbs to enhance the flavor profile.
The tasty and versatile hedgehog mushroom is a delightful addition to many dishes, bringing its unique flavor and texture to the table.
Try a Hedgehog Mushroom Today
Whether you’re foraging your own or trying a new dish in a restaurant, the hedgehog mushroom is not one you want to miss out on! Its unique flavor and versatility make it the perfect addition to any meal. Try one today!
And if you’re looking to try out other delectable mushroom varieties, check out our mushroom page!