Hedgehog Mushrooms in November

Last Friday (the Black Friday for holiday shoppers) Eliza and I decided to spend a day outside doing a bit of hiking and just unwinding from the previous day’s Thanksgiving feast.  While the day was somewhat bleak and cloudy, the rain held off and the temperature remained relatively mild.  One of the things that I really enjoy about living in South Carolina is that, generally, you can go hiking almost all year round (January and February can get a little more chill in the upstate – where I live – but for the most part the weather remains nice).

A good hike after a day of heavy eating always feels quite nice, burning off calories and breathing in some fresh air.  On the hike we were not really looking for any major fungal finds but ended up being surprised by all the activity.  Most of what we found were various Little Brown Mushrooms (LBMs) growing on forest detritus and fallen logs.  There were quite a good number of slimy russulas species as well as a number of what appeared to be Destroying Angels (we didn’t pay these ones too much attention due to their high toxicity and challenging identification.  In my opinion most amanitas are not worth too much time investigating considering that the majority are high risk toxic mushrooms.  I know their general characteristics and avoid anything that is remotely close).  We also found a couple fallen logs that had been covered entirely with some type of puffballs.

The most exciting fungal find of the day had to be a huge horde of hedgehog mushrooms, easily two pounds or so worth of them.  Hedgehogs are strange mushrooms to say the least.  They have neither gills nor the spongy pore surface of boletes.  Instead the undersides of their caps are covered with a myriad of small teeth-like structures.  Their general appearance when viewed from above is somewhat similar to a chanterelle (which they are related to through DNA analysis), though they seem to be a more pale skin tone color, and have an almost velvety feel. Their fragrance is mild and slightly sweet.

One of the nice things about hedgehog mushrooms is that there are not really any other mushroom species that they can be confused with (this due mostly because of their strange tooth-like spore surfaces).  As such hedgehogs make for one of the easier to identify edible mushrooms of the woods (though I encourage mushroom forgers to always practice careful identification practices before eating any wild fungus). 

We cooked the hedgehogs in a kind of potato hash.  Basically a bunch of finely chopped potatoes, onions, celery, garlic and some salt pepper and fresh thyme (see Eliza’s blog post for the recipe).  The hedgehogs have a subtle earthy flavor and a firm texture.  The hash, as a whole, was hearty and rustic, and seemed to be the perfect dish to accentuate the mushrooms fine culinary qualities.  All and all our find provided for an excellent and easy meal.

This picture of a hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum) is from Wikipedia. I took some photos with my piece of junk camera and none of them came out all that well. I may upload them later just to offer some more looks at the fungal finds on our hike.

~ by Nathaniel on November 30, 2010.

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