Foraging in Minnesota: Hedgehog Mushrooms

Read More

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

Read More

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”

Foraging in Minnesota: Ostrich Ferns

Read More Foraging fiddleheads

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

Read More

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

Read More

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”

Product Review: Irish Setter VaprTrek Boot

It all started in 2014. A great pair of leather boots had given up the ghost and I needed something new. Another pair of leather boots seemed a good idea, but with all the walking I do in the bird hunting season, I didn’t want anything too heavy. One boot caught my attention, marketed as light in weight and tough as nails. I’d never owned anything in kangaroo leather before, so who was I to doubt their claims? 

Well, I should have. Astonishingly, I wore those boots out in just one October. The leather in the toes completely disintegrated, and the waterproof layer underneath could clearly be seen. I regret to this day I didn’t take pictures, but I was livid as I packed up the box. I just wanted them out of my sight. Ever since then, I’ve been in search of a boot that could stand up to the way I hunt.  Continue reading “Product Review: Irish Setter VaprTrek Boot”

NAGC’s Best Adventurer Food, 2019

Read More Nordhem Karlstad MN

Even when you’re on the road, everybody’s gotta eat. There are the hidden gems, and there are the inevitable sore disappointments. On my adventures, I’ve found my share of each. In the interest of rewarding the proprietors of first-rate eateries, I would like to share some of my favorites with you. Hopefully this will also serve to help you avoid some of the duds lurking out there. The map below is interactive, so click on the icons to obtain addresses, phone numbers, and websites. Have at it, and let me know what you think!

Continue reading “NAGC’s Best Adventurer Food, 2019”

Foraging in Minnesota: Black Cherry

Read More Minnesota black cherry

I’m sure you’ve heard of “black cherry,” either as a flavoring or as a type of wood. For me, the name evokes a certain flavor of candy. But did you know it’s a harvestable fruit here in Minnesota? Yes, it is. And this year’s harvest was outstanding. 

I’d been waiting several years for a good crop of these cherries- perhaps 4 or 5. They were not something I went out of my way for, but I usually checked on a couple different trees at least once toward the end of each summer. Well, this year, it was clear conditions were somehow just right. Branches were full of green clusters by July all over in my area.  Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Black Cherry”

Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making Syrup

Read More Minnesota maple basswood forest

When you try something new, sometimes it doesn’t go so well. A week ago, it was looking like I wouldn’t see so much as a drop of maple sap coming out of my taps. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground, and although the temperatures seemed perfect, nothing was happening. I didn’t know the first thing about how to make maple syrup, not to mention all the nuances regarding the tree tapping and sap collection along the way.  Continue reading “Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making Syrup”

What to Fix- Chokecherry Recipes

Read More

Believe me, I’ve been there too. You find yourself in the presence of an abundance of some kind of foraged treasure- perhaps for the first time– and you collect more than you know what to do with. Most of the time these things can be preserved, and we can decide to do with it all later. For some reason I always seem to envision this taking place on a January day that’s so nasty I can’t even go ice fishing. 

Anyway, the time to decide what to do with all those chokecherries has come. If you’re like me, you’ve made a couple batches of pancake syrup and/or jelly, but there are still several bags of berries waiting down in the basement freezer. The good news is, chokecherry syrup and jelly are unique and tireless, at least in our house (I believe every forager owes it to themselves to at least try the pancake syrup). The better news is, you don’t have to restrict yourself to syrup and jelly; if you use your imagination a bit and have the patience to endure a little trial and error, there are lots of uses for your purple tree caviar.  Continue reading “What to Fix- Chokecherry Recipes”

My Public Lands: 2018

After the Public Lands Day rally at the state capitol rotunda last year, it seemed like a good idea to keep track of my public land usage until the next rally rolled around. I normally visit a lot of state and federal public lands throughout the year, but never kept a record, and so never really knew the extent of my own personal use. My mission to document my outings proved not only enlightening, but also spurred me on to go new places and try new things. 

The following is a visual representation of my visits- as well as my varied activities- on Minnesota’s public lands since last April. You may notice that not every single day or visit is represented by a photograph. For instance, some photographs represent an activity carried out on several different parcels, at noted. Likewise, some outings occurred on many different days, such as foraging in Chippewa National Forest and George Washington State Forest throughout the summer and fall. I only wish I had remembered to bring my rally sign with me every time; regrettably, there are some gaps in coverage. 

Our public lands, as you can see, are important to me throughout the year for camping, fishing, hunting, foraging, educating my children, and much more. If you are so inclined, please consider joining the Public Lands Day rally at the Minnesota state capitol February 7th, at 3:00. Thanks, and get outside. 

C.C. Andrews State Forest, Kettle River

Sucker fishing and camping, Cloquet Valley S.F. and CC Andrews S.F., April 2018 Continue reading “My Public Lands: 2018”

Foraging in Minnesota: Chaga

Read More Drying chaga

If there was a beauty contest for fungus, I know one that would probably come in last: chaga. Resembling a black scaly scab on the wound of a birch tree, there is really nothing attractive about it. But for every point it loses for its ugliness, it makes up for in medicinal qualities. Well, that’s the reputation it has, anyway. It has quite a following among select foragers. However, that could possibly be chalked up to a lack of other things available to gather through the cold months. 

Inonotus obliquus

Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Chaga”

Do Something New: Whitefish Gill Netting

Read More

As many times as I’ve suffered from bitingly cold hands and fingers, there is only one time in my entire life that could possibly eclipse the way my fingers felt recently. When I was pretty young, my dad took my brother and me out in the boat to do some last-minute fishing before heading home from the cabin. All I remember was learning how to set the hook, the big juicy bluegills we boated, and my hands being so cold that I probably cried. Late last month, as I gripped my canoe paddle without actually feeling it, my old record for cold hands seemed almost certainly broken. Unlike that memorable day from my childhood, however, I definitely did not shed any tears. This was the last morning of my inaugural whitefish netting trip to northern Minnesota. The air that day was stuck in the low 30s, pushed around by a light wind, and punctuated by intermittent drizzle. The previous four days, unfortunately, were pretty much the same.  Continue reading “Do Something New: Whitefish Gill Netting”