Foraging in Minnesota: Hedgehog Mushrooms

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Yesterday I found my first hedgehog mushrooms of the season. It was on a short outing with my daughter; she was after raspberries and I wanted to follow up on the sudden burst of mushroom activity in the yard. I rightly suspected some edible mushrooms would be available, mostly chanterelles and lobsters. Those were good finds, but I hollered out loud when the first few hedgehogs appeared on the forest floor- they are among my most favorite mushrooms to eat.

Hydnum, spp.

Hedgehog mushrooms come in two varieties here in this part of the world: Hydnum repandum and Hydnum umbilicatum.  H. repandum is in general larger and more common. H. umbilicatum is smaller and typically has a dimple in the pileus opposite the stem attachment, hence the belly-buttonesque “umbilicatum” of its name. They aren’t very different from each other, and making the distinction is fairly inconsequential. One of the best things about hedgehog mushrooms is that they don’t really have poisonous lookalikes. This makes them a great beginner’s mushroom.

Our Hydnum species are terrestrial mushrooms, which is to say they will not be found growing from wood- only the ground. They are mycorrhizal, which means they engage in a symbiotic relationship with live plants (often trees). When it comes to the trees with which hedgehogs associate, many sources will indicate ‘hardwoods’ or ‘conifers’, which does absolutely nothing to whittle down the possibilities. When I think of the places I myself have found them, it’s hard to make generalizations, much less specific recommendations. The bottom line: look everywhere.

Hedgehog mushroom foragingHedgehog mushrooms typically display a dull, tan to brown cap; I think of them as biscuit and pancake colors. The stem of H. repandum is reported to be shorter than that of H. umbilicatum, and in my experience is sturdy and firm. They both have the famous “teeth,” which hang down from the cap for releasing spores into the wind. This is the principal identifying feature.

I typically find specimens that are only about 1 to 3 inches across, rarely bigger. They seem to start out fairly circular and become more irregularly shaped as they get larger. I once found a gnarly old one that was about 7 inches across. I couldn’t help thinking it could have been dinner for me and then some. What I would have given to have found it fresh!

While I found my first-ever hedgehogs in late September, I usually find the greatest quantities in the initial flush of summer. They just seem to fruit more heavily now, for some reason. Some sources call them a fall mushroom, but in Minnesota I think there is a reasonable chance of finding them from July into September or even October if conditions are right.

In the Kitchen

Let me say up front that I place hedgehog mushrooms in the top echelon of wild mushrooms, right up there with hen of the woods, chanterelles, and black trumpets. It’s worth a trip to the woods hoping to find even a couple, especially if you’ve never before had the pleasure.

The taste of hedgehogs is probably what makes them so endearing to me. Their sturdy, rich flavor sets it apart from its buttery cousin, the chanterelle- in my mouth, anyway. Between the taste and firm texture, a hedgehog would probably be the perfect mushroom to introduce to somebody who has never tasted wild mushrooms. If I was more bold, I might try using them to win over somebody who thinks they hate mushrooms because “they’re squishy and slimy.” But then why would I waste one of my favorite mushrooms on somebody who seems predisposed to disliking them?

Their flavor might get lost in a more complex dish like soup, but one thing works in their favor: they hold their form well through the cooking process. I have not found them to be a super-shrinking mushroom like morels and chicken of the woods. Also unlike some other mushrooms, the stems of hedgehogs are perfectly good and should not be discarded.

Now, I don’t usually find enough hedgehogs to make an entire dish that showcases them, so they are usually sautéed in butter and savored by my household and me. And you can never go wrong making mushrooms with scrambled eggs; that preparation allows for an honest tasting of the essence of any mushroom. Hedgehogs are no different, and it’s a great way to use the four or five that always need a purpose after I’ve been out picking. Just make thick slices and sauté briefly in butter, pour in the beaten eggs, fry as usual, and top with a mild cheese if desired.

 

If you’re interested in learning about more foraged foods, please visit my What to Forage page.

 

 

Foraging in Minnesota: Dwarf Raspberries

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Every year about this time there is a lull in the foraging season here in Minnesota. The early season has passed and the frenzy over morels, fiddleheads, and ramps is over. The summer mushrooms and berries really haven’t started. However, while raspberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, and other members of the Rubus clan have yet to even finish blooming, their little brother is here to take center stage.  Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Dwarf Raspberries”

BWCA Entry Point 52: Saved by Gillis Lake

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What do you get when you take a pandemic-weary man, work him nearly to exhaustion, cook him in the sun, and feed him a couple fish? A question for the ages, no doubt. In order to learn the answer, I left home hours before sunrise on May 18th. My destination was BWCA Entry Point 52, Brant Lake- somewhere I’d been trying to go for over a year. Continue reading “BWCA Entry Point 52: Saved by Gillis Lake”

Wilderness Food: Lake Trout Over Cedar Coals

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It’s a bit niche, I’ll admit. This method of cooking doesn’t lend itself well to universal use. There aren’t many times and places a person will readily be able to throw it together. Still, it’s too good not to share.

Last year, when I haphazardly threw a trout over the campfire for breakfast one day, I had no idea it would turn out so good. This year, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do when I went back to the BWCA. In fact, I didn’t even leave myself any other options. It was this or nothing. Continue reading “Wilderness Food: Lake Trout Over Cedar Coals”

Foraging in Minnesota: Ostrich Ferns

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The Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) seems to be gaining in popularity among foragers, if mentions in social media are any indication. Posts about “fiddleheads” are becoming more and more common this time of year. Also apparent in the social media soup is how much confusion there is when it comes to knowing which species are edible and how they are identified. 

Some people- a proportional few- are vocal in their opinion that the Ostrich fern is not the only edible fern in Minnesota. While that may be true for sometimes complicated reasons, I will not subscribe to that school of thought. Allow me to explain why.  Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Ostrich Ferns”

What to Fix: Recipes for Ramps

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Ramps are special, and the season is short. For some foragers, it’s the taste of Spring, and they wouldn’t miss it. I’m not that fervent, but I do like them nonetheless. This year, I made a point to branch out and do more than scrambled eggs with ramps. Now, I’m no chef, so don’t expect any groundbreaking ideas or recipes here. My perspective is that of an avid forager and great fan of trying new things. Continue reading “What to Fix: Recipes for Ramps”

Foraging in Minnesota: Ramps

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Once again, I blame social media. For what, you ask? For the ridiculous fame that ramps seem to be “enjoying” nowadays. Of course, people have known about ramps for a long time, even holding spring festivals for them in parts of the eastern U.S. where they used to grow prolifically. I say “used to” because it is well known that wild ramp populations are hurting. Because of that, they really don’t need any extra harvest pressure. Every foraging group I subscribe to on Facebook, however, is currently experiencing Ramp Mania. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Ramps”

Stay Well, Stay Sane

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It’s been about three days since all the closures started, and one day since Minnesota declared a state of emergency. Everyone in my household is already feeling cooped up and anxious about how we will spend the next days and weeks. And we’ve already told the kids they’re going to have limited time with friends for a while. So, if we’re going to spend less time in public, avoid movie theaters and restaurants, and otherwise practice hermit life, what can we do? Continue reading “Stay Well, Stay Sane”

The Season for Outdoor Savings

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It seems every year I tell myself I’m going to get new hiking boots. And ice fishing boots. And snow bibs. And winter clothing layers. And a new backpacking stove. I’m sure I’ll get around to all those, but most of my procrastination has to do with finding the right items at the right prices. Well, now is the time of year when prices get slashed and I need to be on top of my shopping game. You should too, especially if you need any type of outdoor clothing.  Continue reading “The Season for Outdoor Savings”

Ways to Extend Your Ice Fishing Season

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Well, the walleye and northern pike seasons ended yesterday here in Minnesota. This always leaves me feeling a little adrift with respect to the remainder of my ice fishing season. Most of my energy is spent chasing those toothy predators; nothing else quite measures up.

But I love ice fishing. I’d rather make use of the time left than hang my head and stuff my gear back up in the top of the garage again.   Continue reading “Ways to Extend Your Ice Fishing Season”

Trip Report: The Jumbo Perch of Devils Lake

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I don’t keep a bucket list. If I did, one of the items on it going into 2020 would have been ice fishing Devils Lake. When that opportunity recently landed in my lap, I couldn’t resist. It was a “Communicator Camp,” arranged by the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), where Devils Lake Tourism and Clam Outdoors hosted several media professionals like myself. 

We assembled the first night, and were given a warm welcome (and the game plan) by Devils Lake Tourism’s Suzie Kenner and Tanner Cherney. Two members of the Clam Outdoors Ice Team– Thayne Jensen and Tony Mariotti- also gave us an overview of all the equipment we’d be using. Everything sounded so good until the conversation turned to the weather.  Continue reading “Trip Report: The Jumbo Perch of Devils Lake”

Tullibees and Happy Kids on Mille Lacs

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Nobody smiles at 4:40 am. Nobody at my house, anyway. But Friday morning, I woke my kids up that early, knowing they would be smiling a lot that day- eventually. They had the day off from school, and we had a big day planned at Mille Lacs Lake. 

Our little Ford Escape slinked down the resort ramp between rumbling trucks and wheelhouses, onto the white expanse. It was a few minutes before sunrise, though we wouldn’t see the sun that day due to thick cloud cover. Winds were moderate and temperatures were expected to rise about ten degrees to near 30 by day’s end. It wasn’t a picture-perfect day, but it could have been worse.  Continue reading “Tullibees and Happy Kids on Mille Lacs”