The hedgehog mushroom (Dentinum repandum) is honestly one of my absolute favorite wild harvested mushrooms in the midwest. It has a nutty, sweet flavor and a firm texture that holds up to nearly anything you might want to serve it with and is a proud standalone in its own right. It also has the perk of being a fairly easy to identify mushroom with no real look-alikes. In fact, David Arora calls it “one of the safest of all edible mushrooms.”
How to Identify a Hedgehog?
The hedgehog gets its name from the spines (called “teeth”) which hang from the underside of the cap of the mushroom. They somewhat resemble the spines on the back of a hedgehog, but can also be described as hundreds of uniform, tiny little stalactites, like the rock formations hanging from the ceiling of a cave. This is one of the key identifiers, though there are a number of fungi that have these “teeth” that are not edible.
Some of the more immediate identifying characteristics of the Hedgehog (also called the “Sweet Tooth” by Audubon Field guide), is its cream to pinkish-tan to buff orange or reddish brown cap. As it ages, it may form fissures in the cap, particularly in large specimens. The stem is a white to creamy color and can sometimes be very relatively thick and dense. They have a white spore print. Hedgehogs often grow in small clusters or in veins from the ground much like chanterelles and, in the midwest, will be found in a similar timeframe and habitat to chanterelles. Starting mid July, start hunting for hedgehogs in white or burr oak forests in more temperate parts of the midwest, or under pines or cedars up in the more boreal region of Minnesota. Hedgehogs start in mid July and will keep popping into fall, seeming to peak sometimes between August and September. I’ve found these mushrooms while hunting chanterelles, then gone back a month later and found them while hunting maitake.
A Few Other Toothed Fungi
Northern Tooth (Climacodon septentrionalis) is a shelf fungi which I’ve seen predominantly on sugar maples in the midwest, though Audubon society reports it also having been found on Beeches. If you find this on your maple in your front yard, woe to you as this means the maple will die. A few ground dwelling toothed mushrooms: there is the Dentinum umbilicatum, which is very similar to D. repandum, only specifically tends to grow near conifers and is an equally high caliber edible. There is an albino variant of the Hedgehog as well, so if you find an all white hedgehog, you can still eat it! Perhaps the closest thing to an inedible look alike are the next two mushrooms I’ll mention, neither of which are poisonous, though unpleasant to eat. They are the Scaly Tooth (Sarcodon squamosus) or Shingled Hedgehog (Hydnum imbricatum, Sarcodon imbricatus). Both of these species grow to be quite large (specimens up to 10 inches wide) with dense network of dark, scaly patches on the cap, similar to Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus). These species grow throughout N. America, and specifically seem to associate with spruce and fir forests, though reportedly grow with other conifers and oak as well. I’ve never encountered either species in Minnesota. The last terrestrial tooth mushroom I’ll mention is the Bitter Tooth or Bitter Hedgehog (Hydnum scabrosum or Sarcodon scabrosus). This mushroom would like only be confused with a Hedgehog if it were a very young specimen, as the older, larger specimens tend to have a very dark brown cap, brown stem and purplish teeth. A young specimen, which can have the same creamy white stem and teeth of a Hedgehog, with a light brown cap can be differentiated from a Hedgehog by the fact that it will have a greyish green coloring at the base of the stem. For all four of those just mentioned terrestrial mushrooms that could be mistaken for the Hedgehog (the two Bitters, the Scaly and the Shingled) they all have brown spore prints, whereas the Hedgehog has a white spore print. They are also, in my experience in Minnesota, quite uncommon--I’ve found plenty of Hedgehogs but never those four species.
How to Use Hedgehogs in the Kitchen?
These mushrooms are terrific just sauteed up with butter and garlic and thrown on some toast. They also go very well in a cream sauce over pasta. I’ve pickled them with chanterelles in this pickling recipe here. I’ve even heard of a Chef here in Minnesota, Alan Bergo (who does some awesome stuff with foraged food, by the way), smoking them and then jarring them in either a pickle brine or a marinade. These mushrooms are delicious and versatile and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.