As a professional botanist, I don’t know my mushrooms well, but I am working to learn more. This fall, I’m sharing some easily identified, beginner-level species so you can learn too! Today’s species is a choice edible that I was excited to find: meet the Hedgehog (Hydnum sp., Photo 1).
I found my first Hedgehog in September while doing botanical work on one of PEI’s offshore islands, but you can find them scattered in conifer and mixedwood forests across the province. It caught my eye because – from the top – it looked like a cross between a King Bolete and a Chantrelle; it had the bread-like appearance of the King but a bit of the colour a Chant (Photo 2). As soon as I looked underneath, those little spines (Photo 3) told me it was a Hedgehog, one of the mushrooms on my want-to-find list!
Hedgehogs are among the Tooth Fungi, the same group as the Bear’s Head Tooth (https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/bear-s-head-tooth). Rather than gills or pores under the cap, Hedgehogs have spines like those on the back of their animal namesake. We have several species of Hedgehog mushrooms on PEI, but they are all edible and so you don’t need to be able to tell them apart. In my opinion, this is one of our easiest-to-identify mushrooms and virtually impossible to mistake for anything else. That, coupled with its fantastic taste, makes this an excellent target for beginning mushroom foragers.
When tasting a new-to-me mushroom, I first cook and try a small amount on its own (Photo 4). I have two reasons for this. First, I want to get the true flavour of the mushroom to decide whether I like it or not and think about what dishes it is best suited to. Second, not all mushrooms agree with all people, and I want to start with just a bit to be sure it and I will get along.
The Hedgehog taste-test was a definite success and I put this mushroom among the top ranks of the dozen or so wild species I have tried to date (rookie numbers, I know!). This is a mild mushroom with good texture and a nutty, earthy taste that I could easily enjoy on its own, over toast, with eggs, or in my Wild Mushroom Fettucine Alfredo recipe (https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/wild-mushroom-fettuccine-alfredo). I decided to experiment with Hedgehogs (and two other wild species) in a homemade broth-based mushroom soup, and tossed some into my Chicken, Broccoli, and Wild Mushroom Casserole. I’ll share my soup recipe next week (along with another of our Island’s edible wild mushrooms); in the next day or so, I’ll add my casserole to the Wild Food Recipes section of my blog at PEI-untamed!