As someone who is passionate about sustainable food systems, I believe that one of the best ways to connect with nature and nourish our bodies is through foraging. However, foraging comes with its own set of dangers, especially when it comes to identifying the right mushrooms to pick. Hedgehog mushrooms are a delicious and sought-after fungi, but they have several look alikes that can be harmful or even deadly. In this article, we'll take a closer look at hedgehog mushroom look alikes and how to avoid them.
Hedgehog mushrooms are easy to identify, thanks to their tooth-like spines on the underside of the cap. They can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests, and their flavor is often described as nutty or meaty. The problem is that they have several look alikes that can easily be mistaken for the real thing. These look alikes include the false hedgehog (Hydnum imbricatum), the toothed jelly fungus (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum), and the black tooth fungus (Phellodon niger).
The false hedgehog looks similar to the hedgehog mushroom, with spines on the underside of the cap. However, when you cut into the false hedgehog, you'll see that it has a white, pithy core instead of the solid flesh of the hedgehog mushroom. While the false hedgehog is considered edible, it doesn't have the same flavor as the hedgehog mushroom and is generally considered inferior.
The toothed jelly fungus is also sometimes called the "pinecone mushroom" because of its appearance. However, unlike the hedgehog mushroom, it has a orange or yellowish color and a slimy texture. While the toothed jelly fungus is considered edible, it doesn't have the same flavor as the hedgehog mushroom and can also cause digestive issues for some people.
The black tooth fungus looks the least like the hedgehog mushroom, but can still be mistaken for it by novice foragers. Instead of spines, it has black, tooth-like structures on the underside of the cap. It also has a slightly slimy texture, similar to the toothed jelly fungus. The black tooth fungus is considered edible, but again, doesn't have the same flavor as the hedgehog mushroom and can cause digestive issues for some people.
So how do you avoid picking a hedgehog mushroom look alike? The first step is to educate yourself. Take a mushroom identification class, read books on the subject, and learn from experienced foragers. Take note of the environment where hedgehog mushrooms typically grow and what other mushrooms are likely to be found in the same area. Look for identifying characteristics like color, shape, texture, and spore print.
When you're out foraging, always carry a field guide and a magnifying glass to help you identify different mushrooms. Take note of any differences in size, shape, and texture between the mushroom you're considering and the hedgehog mushroom.
Finally, if you're still unsure whether a mushroom is a hedgehog mushroom or one of its look alikes, err on the side of caution and don't pick it. It's better to miss out on a potential meal than to get sick or worse.
As for how to prepare hedgehog mushrooms, they can be sautéed, roasted, or used in soups and sauces. They pair well with bacon, onions, garlic, and herbs like thyme and rosemary. Check out Foraged's recipe section for more hedgehog mushroom recipe ideas.
At Foraged, we're committed to supporting small-scale food purveyors and helping people reconnect with their food. We offer hard-to-find ingredients from foragers, farmers, and artisans all in one place, along with recipes and inspiration for how to use them. Foraging is just one way to connect with the natural world and incorporate unique, nutritious foods into our diets. With a little education and caution, we can safely enjoy the delicious flavors of hedgehog mushrooms and other rare foods.
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