Never eat any wild plants or fungus unless you are positive about the identification.
The Spring rains of 2019 were slowly coming to and and I decided to take a tour of my property and survey what had popped up. Right in my back door I found a fungus that I really had not paid much attention to in the past. The dark scales growing in concentric rings was what first caught my attention. Now, I must admit that fungus is a little bit of a weak spot in my knowledge and experience. It’s just not something that I looked into much. My forestry classes were centered on management of the timber for its lumber value and the only thing that we were rewired to learn was how to either prevent fungal infections in the lumber or how to treat them once they were found. Most instructors simply presumed that the students who grew up in Appalachia learned mushroom hunting from their families. My family just didn’t do a lot of foraging and so there was a gap in my experiences. I knew that there was a fungus called Dryad Saddle but I didn’t really know that it was good for anything beyond composting fallen trees in the woods.
But there it was proudly standing out from a storm thrown log at the edge of my yard.
Image titled Dryad Saddle 5420b
By early May the main fruit body ( mushroom ) was at least 10 inches wide. Now that I’ve had a little help from Nicole Sauce and her Living Free In Tennessee podcast I’ve learned what the fungus is ( Nicole provided confirmation of the ID via a Facebook comment last year) and a little more about how to use it and I’m looking forward to finding it again so I can try it for the first time.
Okay, for starters the mushroom in tonight’s pictures is way too mature for good eating. Once polypores get larger than about 3 inches they’re way too tough to eat. So I decided to leave it to develop and spread it’s spore into the surrounding fallen logs. Running my hand over the mushroom confirmed that it had indeed turned leathery.
Image Titled Dryad Saddle 5420c
After touching the Dryad Saddle my hand smelled a little like cucumbers and watermelon rind which is one of the ways to confirm the identification. I did learn however that in this stage I could have used it to make broth for a soup. I would have probably needed to chop it with an axe because the outside of mushroom was like touching boot leather. All of the processes that I read describe removing pieces due the toughness. The perfect size for cooking is said to be about the size of the palms of your hand. The smaller mushroom growing from the base of the Dryad Saddle may have been about right in retrospect.
Image Titled Dryad Saddle 5420d
Another identification characteristic is the droplets of honeydew that form on the gills on the underside of the mushroom. I didn’t try a taste but judging by the amount of insects I found under this one I’m guessing that it’s sweet. And that’s another thing to be mindful of with a larger specimen of Dryad Saddle as well as other mushrooms is that insects absolutely love them and a larger specimen means it’s probably going to have bugs.
Assuming that the Dryad Saddle grows back this Spring or that some of its spawn finds a foothold I’ll be trying it for the first time. I’m kinda anxious to have this new experience so if anyone reading this article has any tips I’d love to hear them. Just drop a comment below! 😊
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