If youre looking to try a special mushroom, its worth the work to find a pheasant tail mushroom.
This notable mushroom, also known as a pheasant back mushroom, a hawks wing mushroom or a dryads saddle, is a treat to find while foraging for mushrooms. Its commonly found in both living and dead hardwood trees in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.
What makes the pheasant tail special? Lets find out.
The Pheasant Tail Mushroom
Described as a shelf mushroom, this interesting looking fungus got its name because the colors and scales on its top resemble the patterns of pheasant feathers. The shelf-like or saddle-like appearance gave it another name, dryads saddle, after a creature in Greek mythology.
In the United States, the pheasant tail is usually found in the spring and sometimes the fall, east of the Rocky Mountains. Foragers often find it when searching for morels in the spring.
The pheasant tail is easy to spot as it grows up to 20 inches across, but its best to harvest them before they get this big to ensure theyre tender. The pheasant tail usually grows from the side of a tree or stump, either alone or in clusters.
The shape of the mushrooms is round or kidney shaped, with a top thats flat or slightly depressed in the middle, giving it the saddle-like appearance. The surface itself is tan or yellowish with dark scales that make it look like the feathers on a pheasants back.
The interior is white and the short, thick stem may be attached to the side of the cap as it grows off a tree, or attached to the bottom of the mushroom but off-centered.
The Pheasant Tail Is Good For You
The pheasant tail has the same beneficial health properties as other mushrooms, with protein, fiber, and vitamins. Mushrooms have additional advantages such as serving as an antioxidant, being anti-inflammatory, and being good for heart health.
The pheasant tail mushroom has not had as many clinical studies as other mushrooms, but they still provide taste and texture while being low in calories.
The pheasant tail also plays a role in the forest ecosystem by decomposing wood, including elm, ash, beech, poplar, maple and more.
Cooking a Pheasant Tail
Its best to harvest the pheasant tail when its young, as they tend to get tough when they age. To cook them, slice them into small pieces and sauté them over low heat in butter, adding garlic or shallots. Their slightly lemony flavor makes them ideal with fish or chicken.
If you do happen to pick larger, older mushrooms, they can be used as a base for soup stock.
Its true that the pheasants tail mushroom is not as well known or as common as other mushroom varieties, and they have not been studied as much as other fungus.
But they are a special mushroom that look unique and taste great. If youre able to forage for them, youll enjoy finding them and cooking them as much as other species.