Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hydnum repandum - the Sweet Tooth or Hedgehog Mushroom

I was out picking more smooth chants over the weekend. They are out in force and larger than I have ever seen them due to the rain. I found one area where the chants were so large five of them made a pound. We are talking 6 to 8 inches across. The way they split and flay out when they get large makes them look like large orange flowers bursting forth. If you come across a patch like this in the woods, you cannot miss them even from 100 feet away.

While out picking, I thought I would check a hillside in which I had found hedgehog or sweet tooth mushrooms on in th past. Either my timing or the moisture was off before because in 2006 and 2007 I did not find any hedgehogs in this area, but I was hoping with all the rain my luck would soon change. And I was right, because I uncovered a small patch (just under a pound) of the sweet little guys.

As you can tell from the photos, they look a lot like a faded chanterelle from the top but when you turn them over and see the teeth then you really know what you have. Because of their teeth, they are one of the safest wild mushrooms to identify as there are no other look-a-likes (poisonous or edible) so they cannot be mistakenly identified for anything else.

Although they look, feel, and even smell a little like chanterelles, when cooked they are a different animal. They do have a somewhat similar flavor to chants but they have a subtle sweetness (hence the name sweet tooth) and they act different. Those who have cooked chants will know that because of their water content, chanterelles often cook down to about 1/3 their original size, losing much of the moisture contained in the mushroom. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, actually absorb moisture while cooking and can soak up the tastes of the other ingredients in your dish, making them one of my favorite.

However, they are quite rare to find in large quantities. In the last five years, I have only located one patch, and it only produces about a pound or so when the weather conditions are right, so I never get my fill of them.

(Photos taken by Jon Rapp)

No comments: