Dryad’s Saddle – An Introduction
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Dryad’s Saddle (scientific name Cerioporus squamosus, aka Polyporus squamosus), also known as “pheasant’s back” is a polypore mushroom in the broad sense of the term. It’s not considered strictly a polypore because it is atypical since it has an annual fruiting body instead of a perennial one. In the right growing conditions, the fruiting body can last for months and become unrecognizable with age.
These mushrooms emerge in the spring, but they can emerge in any season, including winter. They’re usually solitary but they can also grow in clusters, and they grow on the sides of trees or stumps. They have a lovely lemony flavor when they’re young and cooked properly.
Where To Find Dryad’s Saddle Mushrooms And When
The Dryad’s Saddle grows saprotrophically on tree stumps and fallen logs, as well as parasitically on hardwood trees such as elm, maple, box elder, and other deciduous trees. The mushroom is a kind of white-rot fungus that will decay the heartwood of healthy trees.
They’re common in the U.S., Canada, and several European and Asian countries as well as the U.K. and Ireland.
When you’re foraging for Dryad’s Saddle, the best way to find them is to look for trees lying on the ground or for tree stumps. They may occasionally be found on living trees, but they prefer dead wood.
They grow mostly in May or June, and if you find them, make sure to take note of the spot because they will continue growing there every year.
How To Identify Them
Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms can be identified by paying attention to the cap, the stem, and the pore surface. The cap is shelf-like, and the flesh is soft when they’re young but tough when they age. The upper surface can have a tan or yellowish color with dark scales scattered on the cap when they’re young. The whiter the mushroom, the older it is.
The stem might be attached to the side of the cap or under it, in an off-center position. The stem is also short, solid, thick, and white, but it will develop black fuzz as it gets older. The pore surface has a white, cream color, and it gets yellowish as it ages. It also runs down the stem and it can’t be separated easily from the cap.
Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms offer the same nutritious benefits that almost any other wild mushroom has to offer. They make a great addition to your diet because they are a good source of protein, as well as vitamins B, C, and D, and essential minerals such as potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, and selenium. They’re also low-fat, low-sodium and low-cholesterol, making them super healthy.
Dryad’s Saddle is also high in antioxidants, which is why it can help your body fight free radicals and help prevent cancer and tumors. Antioxidants can also boost your immune system a boost. This mushroom is also rich in dietary fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system, and it makes you feel full for longer so you can reduce your calorie consumption. They can also contribute to your overall cardiovascular health and help manage your blood sugar levels.
How To Cook Dryad’s Saddle Mushrooms
Even though many praise the Dryad’s Saddle for being delicious, many others will tell you that it’s inedible. However, this has to do with the age of the mushroom. The younger they are the better they will be for cooking, so keep that in mind.
Once you’ve found young Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms, you’ll want to cook them right away. When cooked properly, you’ll find that nothing quite tastes or smells like this mushroom, even though the experience differs from person to person. It all depends on the method and the recipe.
Cut off the mushroom’s black stem if it has one and then trim and scrape away the pores on the bottom of the cap using the side of a paring knife. Removing the pores is not necessary, it just depends on whether or not you’re bothered by the texture. If you want to give Dryad’s Saddle a try, here’s a great recipe to get you started!
Dryad’s Saddle Mushroom Ramen
This ramen recipe uses Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms to flavor the broth and it’s truly delicious; a great way to get your first experience with this mushroom. The preparation time is 30 minutes, and the cooking time is 2 and a half hours, but it will be totally worth it. It serves 4 people and it’s a great main course to impress guests or friends and family.
- 2 lbs of poultry carcasses or meat scraps
- 2 cups each of chopped carrot, yellow onion, and celery
- 1 lb of mature Dryad’s Saddle
- 4 ounces of young Dryad’s Saddle
- 1 gallon of water
- 2 tablespoons of flavorless cooking oil
- 12 ounces mixed spring vegetables of your choice
- 3 ounces young tender wild greens of your choice
- Virgin sunflower oil or sesame oil for flavoring
- Fresh chopped cilantro or mint (optional)
- 1 thinly sliced jalapeno (optional)
- 12 ounces dried ramen noodles (4 packs)
- Poached eggs (optional)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons of Soy Sauce
You’ll want to start with the broth. So, preheat your oven to 350F (176 C) and roast the carcasses or scraps until they’re golden. Let them cool and set them aside.
Chop up the mature Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms roughly and process them in a food processor until they have been finely ground.
Grab a stock pot and sweat the vegetables and ground mushrooms in the cooking oil, then add the toasted carcasses or scraps, the gallon of water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 and a half to 2 hours or until the amount of liquid reduces by half. Then strain the broth, let it cool. Season it to taste with a little soy sauce and that’s it.
Now take your green vegetables and blanch them in boiling water until they’re al dente, then quickly chill them in an ice bath. Drain and set aside. Pick the clusters of greens into pieces that will fit on a spoon.
Take the young Dryad’s Saddle and scrape off the pores. Slice as thinly as possible with a sharp knife or use a mandolin slicer if you have one.
Heat the stock in a stock pot that’s deep enough for the noodles and add the sliced young Dryad’s Saddle. Heat the mushrooms until they wilt. Check the seasoning of the broth to make sure it’s to your liking and adjust as necessary.
Whilst the mushrooms are heating up, cook the ramen noodles in lightly salted water. Once they are tender, drain them and set them aside.
Add the vegetables to the broth until they’re warm and add the cooked noodles. Once everything’s nice and hot, you can start plating. Take a serving of noodles with tongs and pour the broth over them and make sure you get some of the vegetables.
Lastly, garnish with reserved greens, flavored oil of your choosing, poached eggs, jalapenos, fresh mint, and anything else you want to add. Then serve immediately and enjoy a great meal.
Dryad’s Saddles are very interesting mushrooms and even though people have mixed opinions about them, it’s definitely worth giving them a try.