The featured mushroom for June 2011 is...
Dryad’s Saddle or Pheasant Back
The dryad’s saddle is a difficult edible mushroom to write about. Our members seem to be almost evenly divided about the taste of this mushroom. Some find it an excellent edible especially in the spring when it is plentiful and when it can serve as a consolation prize on unsuccessful morel hunts. Others try it and then never pick a dryad’s saddle again. I speculate that those who don’t like dryad’s saddle have picked and tried mushrooms that were too old. I usually pick this mushroom when it resembles a small cylinder with only a very slight appearance of what will widen out to become the cap. Although books say that you can slice the edges of older specimens to use, I only pick very young specimens.
The dryad’s saddle is a mushroom that grows throughout the mushroom season: April to November in Michigan with the exception of oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus) and the velvet foot or winter mushroom (Flammulina velutipes) which can grow in any month although they are most common in the spring. The name, dryad’s saddle, comes to us from Greek mythology. A dryad is a tree nymph, minor deity, born with a specific tree and living with and protecting that tree throughout their mutual lives. The saddle is what the nymph sits upon while protecting her tree.
This mushroom is at first almost cylindrical with the stalk white to tan and the top that will grow to become the cap having small brownish scales on a white to yellowish background. The top immature specimens will flare out to become a fan shaped cap with pronounced brownish scales on a yellowish tan background .The pattern of the scales gives this mushroom another common name, the pheasant back as pattern of the scales is said to resemble the pattern of the scales on a hen pheasant’s back. The cap can range from 1 to 14 inches across ¼ to 3 inches thick. Dryad’s saddles have a very distinct odor resembling cucumbers or watermelon rind. The saddles often occur in overlapping clumps on dead and dying wood of many species of trees.
In their book, Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, David Fischer and Alan Bessette give a recipe for Pheasant Back Jambalaya. In her cookbook, Hope’s Mushroom Cookbook, Hope Miller has recipes using Polyporus squamosus in appetizers, soups, salads, sauces, main dishes, and vegetable side dishes. Dryad’s saddles, however, do not make an appearance in the chapter: Favorite Wild Mushroom Recipes.