The hedgehog mushroom is a fungus delicacy which can be found growing in the forests of North America. Many mushroom hunters prize the hedgehog mushroom for its flavor, which is described as sweet and nutty, paired with a slightly crunchy texture that is quite pleasing to the palate. Hedgehogs are also known by a variety of aliases including sweet tooth mushroom and pig's trotter, in a nod to the flavor and appearance of the hedgehog mushroom.
The proper scientific name of the hedgehog mushroom is Hydnum repandum. In appearance, the hedgehog mushroom has a medium sized orange to beige fruiting body abundantly decorated with small drooping teeth on the underside. The cap of the hedgehog mushroom has a small depression, and will begin to turn up at the sides as the mushroom grows older. The stem and flesh of the hedgehog mushroom are a creamy white in addition to being delicious.
Hedgehog mushrooms are used dried and fresh in a variety of cuisines. Many edible fungi have minimal flavor, and are considered edible primarily because they will not poison consumers. The hedgehog mushroom, however, has a strong characteristic flavor and odor which becomes even more intense when the mushrooms are dried. The flesh of the mushroom is very resilient, even crunchy when raw, but remaining firm when cooked as well. Cooked fresh hedgehogs often remind consumers of meat, because the texture is so hearty.
Hedgehog mushrooms are less delicate than other species as well. When fresh, the flavor and texture are better if the mushrooms are added at the end of the cooking process to sauces and side dishes, but hedgehogs can be baked and stewed and will retain their excellent flavor. Dried hedgehogs can be used in any imaginable dish, although they are quite popular in stews and stuffings which involve lengthy cooking times. These types of dishes bring out the flavor of the mushroom to complement the other ingredients.
The hedgehog mushroom has a symbiotic relationship with the trees it grows around. This means that if a patch of hedgehog mushrooms is found, it can be returned to year after year for a reliable crop. For this reason, many mushroom hunters are cagey about where they find the delicious mushrooms, to prevent poaching. It is an excellent choice for inexperienced mushroom hunters, but the identification should always be verified by someone with more experience and education.