I recently encountered a massive one of these amazing mushrooms. The size of this mushroom made the log that it was growing out of look smaller than it was! This polypore mushroom of many names: Dryad's Saddle, Pheasant's Back, Polyporus Squamosus, Boletus Squamosus, Cerioporus squamosus, is a spring to early summer mushroom that is large flat, tan caps with brownish flattened scales, pores white, angular, tubes white decurrent, that grows on hardwood trees. The stipe/stalk is off center stubby and darker at the base. When fresh, this mushroom has a strong scent of watermelon or cucumber. The flesh is about 1-4 cm thick and soft when young and grows tough and dry with age. You can clearly make out the tubes on the underside which is the dispersion method for spores.
This is a great time to find this wonderful wild edible. Dryad's Saddle live on living and dead hardwoods but especially maple, poplar, birch and willow. They grow throughout the whole summer season in Eastern North America May-November. All of the luck in finding one of these Pheasant's Back is finding it young. That is when the flesh is tender and soft. As the mushroom ages, the flesh starts to dry out and become to tough to eat. Another option to prepare before cooking would be to remove the "tubes" layer from the flesh with a pairing knife in order to get only the softest and most tender spots of the mushroom.
So you had luck of finding a beautiful young tender specimen? Great. This is an amazing mushroom that retains it watermelon flavor even after cooking and spicing. After steaming the mushrooms for about 5-10 minutes, sautéing in garlic butter or olive oil in a hot pan makes for a great side dish. These mushrooms can be incorporated a substitute for your favorite mushroom dishes. Stir fry, soup, bread, vegetable stew they can take the place and add interesting flavor as opposed to your store bought mushrooms.
Dryad's Saddle is usually considered a consolation prize for missing the Morel season. It doesn't have the same popularity, prestige or value, however this is a delicious wild edible that anyone would be lucky to find a young fresh specimen. The common name is very interested, and the etymological origin is from the druids. I presume that these mushrooms were valuable in the druid culture.
This mushroom has entered some contemporary culture showing up as the subject of the "Strange Sounds While Mushroom Hunting" video, in which the hunter encounters a large patch of young and fresh dryad's saddle, then immediately hears a strange scream, presumably bigfoot, in the background. Here is a link to the video:
The video has a lot of criticism and a lot of people saying that they heard something similar while in the woods.
If I ever heard a call of something bigger than me, I would probably immediately abandon any endeavor in the forest at the time. . .
Dryad's Saddle is a delicious wild edible that is always fun to find. I welcome the encounter and hope for others to have that excitement that rises up in me!
Have you found any Pheasant's Back? How have you prepared it? I would love to hear from you.
Adam Ganson is a father, partner, mycophile and rollerblader. Forest Shefa is his passion project to inspire a love and inspirational view of nature and its wonders.