Dryad’s saddle: an underrated edible bracket fungus

Dryad's saddle mushroom on a decidious wood stump. Something has been nibbling on this one!

I really like the name “Dryad’s” saddle (Polyporus squamosus) mushroom. Dryad’s are small mystical woodland nymphs from Greek mythology, and these apparently fit perfectly on this fungus. Seeing these tasty mushrooms immediately conjures up images of these shy mystical woodland creatures, but I still have not come across any! This bracket fungus, from a more technical point, can appear abundantly in spring (at the same time when morels appear) to autumn. The host is often Elm, but they can grow on a variety of deciduous woods often in overlapping clusters. This fungus is easily recognizable, as the bracket has a scaly cap resembling pheasant feathers, hence the other common name “pheasants back mushroom”, and the underside (hymenium) contains angular tubes.

The smell of the mushroom resembles that of flour and this fungus is classified as “edible”, but many people do not find this mushroom very tasty in practice, and report it to be inedible and tough. The main reasons for this are that large, old specimens are collected and / or over cooked. It is not a good idea to use these mushrooms in dishes which require prolonged cooking, such as stews or soups, as these fungi will become very leathery. Only young Dryad’s saddles (smaller than the size of your hand) should be collected,  sliced, and cooking should be done very quickly over a high heat in some salted butter: about two minutes is enough. This way it will be succulent and tasty, instead of chewing a piece of Dryad’s saddle leather.

6 comments to Dryad’s saddle: an underrated edible bracket fungus

  • Davek

    Ive just eaten a 15″ dryads sadddle – it was delicious and tender. Size isnt necessarily the deciding factor – the large plates can still be soft and tender. Check the depth of the spore tubes on the underside if they are shallow and the top can easily be cut by a fingernail it may well be edible – and a single large plate can provide a substantial amount of meat.
    I cooked one sliced into thin pieces with garlic, tarragon a little rice vinegar and some light soy sauce for about 2 minutes. delicious!
    A second one was made into mushroom soup with a little chicken stock.

  • Scott(Big Daddy

    While morel hunting I came across 3 Dryad Saddles. I sauted one baked one and ate the other one raw. The one that I ate raw I loved the best. It tasted like a fresh watermellon. It was almost as good as my morels lol.

  • Cyclone John

    I jsut picked my first Dryad’s, loved the texture but they wre pretty tough. Now that I have read the comments, I can’t wait to get back and pick some more, I left a bunch in the woods. Clearly I cooked them too long. I am sure that the younger ones are better, but the big ones that I picked were pretty easy to slice, so I figure I just cooked them too long. Never thought to try them raw. Will give that a slhot as well.

  • Erik

    We were out looking for Morels today and my 8 year old really wanted to try a dryad saddle so we cut one and we just sautéed it with butter. It was actually pretty good and I know now not to pass them when I am out in the woods. God put them here for food and the taste good so we will continue to eat. I can’t wait to try different ways to cook them.

  • Jan

    Sad that my elm trees died, but my daughter found these on the trunk last fall in my yard! I checked with experts…and ate them. I just found 4 more this spring in a pile of of limbs I stacked by the dead tree. One was 10″ across and another 8″. I agree with the fingernail rule. These were all moist and tender. I am going to leave the mess of limbs in my yard. I now call it a garden.

  • My wife and I found a young Dryad’s Saddle today, and I followed your suggested method of cooking. It was really good! We hope to find more and cook them the same way. Thanks for the tip!

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