Foraging the Pheasants Back Mushroom:
The name “dryad’s saddle” refers to fairy-like entities known in in Greek mythology called dryads who were seen as tree-dwelling nymphs, also known as a tree sprite; Of course you will want to brush them off before collecting the mushrooms.
And, the name pheasnts back, derives from the pattern of colors on the bracket matching that of a pheasant’s back.
These grow on various very dead hardwoods, oak, tulip poplar, maple, and especially elm, as the rains occur. The best time to look for mushrooms like these is 3 days of sunshine after 3 days of rain. The rain comes out to help the mycelium begin forming mushrooms, and the sun brings them out through the cracks. Another important characteristic of identifying this mushroom is that when slicing a small piece, the mushroom also smells like watermelon rind where cut.
This delicious and abundant mushroom always grows out of trees directly and has a white porus underside when fresh, which fades to a tan or bruised color, of which by then it’s too old for eating. It is recommended to eat the smaller specimens, even though you will find several which are bigger than dinner plates.
That said, there are 2 main ways to tell if your particular specimen is still fresh. The first is that you can look on the underside to notice how white and fresh the pore surface looks, the second is that if you slice a piece and look at the cross section, if you see a lot of bug holes or bugs, its past its prime for being a “choice” edible, and may still be considered “survival-food”.
When the mushroom is fresh and tender, it’s a delicious mushroom to sautee and add to any dish. You can also roast or dehydrate this mushroom, powder in a coffee grinder, and add it to soups to enhance the flavor of stock.
Mushroom soup is sure to always please the senses, especially if added with some stinging nettle greens! I love to stir fry them in an oil like ghee, or coconut oil with some onions, and a little bit of cumin seed.