DRYAD'S SADDLE, HAWK'S WING, PHEASANT BACK
While I spend every spring keeping an eye out for morels (and rarely finding any), a far more easily spotted spring mushroom, Cerioporus squamosus, the Dryads’ Saddle, Hawk-wing, or Pheasant-back, beckons me from every woodland. This sizeable, early, and beautiful saprophyte/weak parasite grows on dead (and sometimes dying) deciduous wood. I typically find it on standing or fallen linden, beech, elm, ash, or sycamore.Cerioporus squamosus, like all of the polypores, is tender and juicy fleshed when young, but soon becomes leathery and tough. Independently of size, as long as a knife slices through the still soft fungus easily and the pores are shallow and white, this mushroom has a meaty texture and an interesting cucumber/watermelon rind scent and flavour. It makes a beautifu sweet, spiced pickle/relish and fits well into citrusy and Far Eastern dishes.Once the pores get deeper and the flesh hardens, no amount of cooking will make this mushroom palatable. The chitin of fungal cell walls does not soften the way a plant‘s cellulose structure would. Best leave older Dryad‘s Saddles where they are, and look for them in the same spot a few weeks sooner next year.