How to Find Hedgehog Mushrooms (and Eat Them: With Recipes)
Even though it’s getting late in the edible mushroom season, we found a nice little haul of sweet tooth hedgehog mushrooms after the rain last weekend:
Daytime temperatures were reaching the upper 40’s to 50 F when we found them under oaks in a South Carolina forest. The entire slope seemed to be covered with them but we only picked enough for that night’s dinner. It was also a cloudy day and had been raining during the week prior to our discovery.
We prefer edible mushrooms that are hard to mistake for anything else, and sweet tooth hedgehogs fit the bill. Instead of the more familiar mushroom gills or pores, hedgehogs have tiny “teeth.” They’re not unlike chanterelles and have a similar color (pale to rich orange cap & stalk). They also smell and taste similar to chanterelles (especially to the “golden chanterelle” — Cantharellus cibarius).
If you find a mushroom that fits this description, it’s almost certain to be a sweet tooth hedgehog. But, in our mushroom hunts, even when we feel certain we’ve identified a mushroom correctly we still check it in at least 2 (but usually 4) reliable field guides before we choose to eat it. If there is even a faint doubt, we don’t eat it. I love blogs, but don’t consider them reliable field guides. Here’s a list of some suggested books and websites for you to use (PLEASE USE A MINIMUM OF TWO GUIDES BEFORE EATING WILD MUSHROOMS):
- Hydnum repandum at the Mushroom Expert website
- Mushrooming without Fear: the Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab
- Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora
- 100 Edible Mushrooms by Michael Kuo
- Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America by David W. Fischer
- Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips
- Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians by William C. Roody
- Mushrooms of the Southeastern United States by Bessette & Bessette, Roody, & Dunaway
Another good way to learn the ropes with edible mushroom foraging is to join your local mycology society. The one in our area is called S.C.U.M.S. (South Carolina Upstate Mycological Society). Once you’ve made some mycologist friends it can booster your identification confidence. They’ll teach you “beginner” mushrooms that are more foolproof and you can move on from there.
Just remember that there is no need to be mycophobic if you thoroughly educate yourself before you eat! Guessing or assuming is what gets you into trouble.
There is a massive, time-honored mushroom hunting culture in other areas of the world (especially in Japan and the bulk of Europe). Mushrooms are so well regarded that the more deadly problem is staying safe on cliffs or avoiding a territorial murder.
By and large, Americans have moved away from food traditions requiring more skill than pushing a shopping cart. In spite of that, there is still a strong mushroom culture in the Appalachias where people have not abandoned traditional homesteading. The food revolution on the west coast has also created a booming appreciation of gastronomic (and recreational) fungi.
Most of us think of “mushroom” as a specific flavor associated with button/cremini/portobello (which are all the same species – Agaricus bisporus — at various stages of growth). This is like trying tomatoes and deciding that all vegetables must taste like tomatoes. In reality, mushrooms have wildly varying flavors! Morels do not taste like chanterelles, and porcini do not taste like bluwits.
Sweet tooth hedgehogs are a little bit fruity (like apricot) and very mild. We wanted a recipe that didn’t mask their delicate flavor.
Sweet tooth hedgehogs are plenty tasty if you simply saute them in butter (with maybe a little fresh thyme or chives). We would only have had enough for side dishes if we did that, so we turned it into a larger hash.
Recipe for Sweet Tooth Hedgehog Mushroom Potato Hash
- 4 tablespoons oil (we used olive)
- 1 small onion or 4 shallots, minced
- 2 – 4 medium potatoes, cubed
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Several sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped fine
- Approximately 2 – 4 cups chopped hedgehog mushrooms (clean them with a soft brush instead of washing to get the soil off)
- 3 – 5 leaves of fresh garlic chives (or regular chives), minced
Heat the 3 tbsp of the oil in a skillet and saute the onion (or shallot) until slightly translucent and soft. Toss in the potatoes, cover, and cook around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potato chunks can be pierced with a fork. Remove cover and throw in celery, garlic, and thyme. Stir occasionally (around 5 minutes) until celery begins to soften. Remove hash from pan and put in a bowl. Deglaze the pan with water if it is very crusted and wipe it clean. Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the skillet and toss in the mushrooms. Cook until thoroughly softened, around 5 – 10 minutes. Return the hash to the skillet, add the garlic chives, and stir everything until well mixed. Serve!