Hedgehog Mushrooms – An Introduction
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For novice mushroom collectors, one of the most daunting things to learn is how to recognize different mushrooms and not to confuse them with poisonous varieties. Hedgehog mushrooms, or Hydnum repandum as they are scientifically known, are amongst the easiest mushrooms for beginners to identify and, in addition, they are so tasty that even the fussiest eaters enjoy them.
Where To Find Hedgehog Mushrooms And When
Hedgehog mushrooms are found in a variety of environments in the more temperate zones of Australia, northern Asia, Europe, and North America. They are in the family of mycorrhizal mushrooms and tend to appear in the same locations each year.
Excessive picking and damage to the surrounding area can reduce the number of mushrooms available for the following season. It is up to all foragers to observe the correct etiquette and ensure that they don’t destroy the roots that the mushrooms grow on. That way they will appear in the same spot year after year.
These mushrooms can be spotted anytime from late summer to late winter, depending on the location, and their creamy-colored clusters can be found protruding from moss, dense leafy areas and under twigs of forest areas with beech, birch, spruce, and pine. They are not well-hidden because their color gives distinguishes them.
How To Identify Them
Even though hedgehog mushrooms have quite a few variations, they are easy to identify because of the protrusions on the underside of the cap which give them away. Their cap is not always regular, and its diameter ranges from 1.5 to 8 inches (4-20 cm). The stipe (stem) is often lopsidedly attached to the cap. Stipes are often fused with other stipes.
Their colors range from a creamy white to yellow, pink and orange. One of their most identifiable features are the spikes under the cap which look like little spiny teeth. These spikes are reminiscent of a hedgehog hence the derivation of their English name. The French name ‘Pied de Mouton’ comes about because the shape of the cap is like a sheep’s foot.
How To Grow Hedgehog Mushrooms
For those that want to grow Hydnum repandum themselves, buy a grow kit online for use outdoors. These will have dried spawn and instructions for ground preparation and growing. Even though they like a well-drained acidic soil, they aren’t too fussy. They flourish in deep shade areas rich in organic matter above the ground. Areas with hardwoods, conifers and even rhododendrons are ideal. In smaller gardens they prefer shady fence areas and the north facing sides of buildings.
Low in fat and calories, yet high in protein, hedgehog mushrooms are not only delicious but also highly nutritional because they are rich in iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Extracts of chloroform and ethanol from these mushrooms have a mild antibiotic effect and mycelia extracts are effective against sarcoma tumors in mice.
How To Cook With Hedgehog Mushrooms
The best way to enjoy Hedgehog mushrooms is to sautée them, a cooking method that enhances their sweet and nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Add sautéed mushrooms to enhance the taste of pizzas, salads, omelets, stews, or serve them as a starter on canapés.
Clean them before cooking by holding them upright by the stem and tapping the top of the cap. Any dirt particles between the teeth will fall off. Some chefs like to rub the toothy spines off – this is not essential since you can rinse them even if they are very dirty. They rarely have bugs or worms on them because, somehow, they repel insects.
Recipe for Sautéed Fresh Hedgehog Mushrooms:-
- As many hedgehog mushrooms as you need for your meal
- Approximately 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil per pound of mushrooms
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs, finely chopped, choose between thyme, parsley, or chives or a combination of these
- Optional: crushed garlic
- Halve or quarter the mushrooms if they are very big.
- Place the butter and oil in a hot pan and add only as many mushrooms as will fit in the pan in a single layer. Cook larger quantities in batches.
- Stir frequently and cook the mushrooms until their liquids have evaporated. This should take approximately 5 minutes.
- Add garlic as soon as the liquid has evaporated and then brown the mushrooms for 2 minutes.
- Wait about fifteen seconds before removing the mushrooms from the pan, then add the herbs.
- Add the salt and pepper as soon as the mushrooms have been removed from the heat.
- After sautéeing the mushrooms, they can also be flambéed with any brandy of your choice.
If you have any mushrooms left over, it is possible to preserve any excess ones by blanching and freezing them. Dehydration is also an option, but they don’t reconstitute well.
When out foraging, hedgehog mushrooms have the advantage of being fairly straightforward to identify because of their ‘teeth’ which, handily, distinguishes them from any poisonous fungi. They are yet another example of a mushroom which not only tastes good, but which also benefits your health.
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