Polyporus squamosus Falafel (Dryad Saddle; Pheasant Back)

Remember, never eat anything that you are not 100% sure of. I take no responsibility for what happens to you if you eat something you incorrectly identify.

One of the CRAZY plentiful mushrooms every spring, and in particularly wet springs, is the Polyporus squamosus; also known as the Dryad Saddle or Pheasant back. It has such a  distinctive appearance and growth habit, it is very easy to find and identify. 
The trick is to find and identify them when they are young enough to eat, because if these get much bigger than 5 inches across they become inedible. You need to REAAAALLLLY fight that urge to find the biggest one with this mushroom. You want the SMALLEST. Read more information about them here.  

When harvesting, do not tear them from the tree, and don’t bother cutting the stem either. You want to cut across the base of the bracket, and leave the stem still attached. It is too tough to eat anyway, and why disturb the mycelial mat more than necessary? Cut them across the base, like this.

Another challenge, is how exactly do you make a mushroom that tastes like watermelon rinds or overripe cucumbers taste good?  That is exactly what they smell and taste like. I tried cooking them like pulled pork once, and it was the grossest thing I have seen in a hot minute. I made falafel patties out of 100% P. Squamosus, and it was ok, but not a true sort of falafel patty. 

The best results we ever had, and the go-to for years, was slicing them crosswise so they came out looking like mustaches; batter and fry them like french fries. They came out pretty well like that, honestly. Crispy, and the flavor mellowed out a lot.
However, I’ve been making a concerted effort to not fry mushrooms anymore. At least not directly. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I’ve been making my best effort to forage more, and come up with recipes that are actually culinarily challenging. 

I did create a morel rangoon that was fried, and knock your socks off good, but since I wasn’t frying the mushroom directly, I felt like that was acceptable.

In that spirit, I decided to revisit my previous falafel attempt and try again.  The net result was that my husband and I nearly ate them all, pretty much as soon as they were done. Right after dinner. They were the BOMB!! 
The recipe was pretty straight forward and could easily be doubled or tripled. If you don’t happen to have a nifty little falafel patty maker like I do, you could roll them into balls, use an ice cream scoop, or even use a burger press for giant patties.   Put them in a pita with some hummus, and some sour cream with cucumbers chopped up in it, sprinkle them with some fresh parsley and you have a serious meal!

So here is the recipe and the illustrated instructions. It was my second recipe for the night and I was racing the clock, so I didn’t do the greatest job getting detailed photos. Sorry about that!!


24 hour prep time for the chickpeas!

1 cup dried Chickpeas

4 or 5 small p. squamosus

½ cup cilantro (fresh- if using dried, I would suggest using ¼ c ground coriander instead)

½ cup blanched stinging nettles (you can just use fresh parsley)

1 tbsp chopped garlic ( I used wild garlic, so this might need adjustment if you are using domesticated- Use your best judgement)

1 small sweet onion, chopped fine (feel free to just obliterate it in a food processor)

¼ cup ground cumin

¼ cup chives

1 tbsp Zhatar (optional)

½ tsp salt

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp baking powder


1 cup sour cream

3 tbsp lemon juice


Put the chickpeas in water to soak over night. I actually didn’t have a chance to work with them the next day, so I put them in the fridge. When I did get them out, a large number had actually begun to sprout, so I took them outside and planted them in containers. Anything working that hard to live deserves a chance. 

Preheat the oven to 350. 1 cup of dried chickpeas becomes something like 3 cups soaked chickpeas. I didn’t measure exactly, I just threw them in the food processor and ran it until they were jagged little, riced sized, particulates. That was for sure about 3 cups, because I put it in a 3 cup bowl while I worked on the mushrooms.

I didn’t bother to rinse the food processor, because it’s all going back in. I hand tore the mushrooms into strips and put them in the food processor. 

I ran it until they were roughly the same size as the chickpeas. You can see in this terribly framed photo that the mushrooms and chickpeas look about the same (the chickpeas are in the bowl on the bottom).

I took the mushrooms out of the food processor and measured; it had shredded down to about 1 cup. If you have more mushrooms, keep shredding them. The ratio you want is 1 cup mushroom for every cup of chickpea, and then multiply the rest of the ingredients by that ratio. If you end up using 3 cups of mushrooms, then use 3 cups of chickpeas, and multiply the rest of the ingredients by 3, etc.  

I put the cup of mushrooms back in the processor bowl, and measured out 1 cup of chickpeas and added it. The left over chickpeas went into the microwave to make into hummus when cooked. 

The rest of the ingredients went into the food processor and were blended it until smooth. The falafel mix became very green from the nettle, garlic greens, and cilantro. 

When it was a uniform consistency, I put it into a bowl so it would be easier to work with. 

Then I got my very handy falafel patty maker out. It makes small coins about 2 inches across.  I love the thing!  If you don’t have one, you can use a measuring cup to measure the amount, then roll them into a ball, and flatten. You could also use an ice cream scoop. Whatever you have, make it work. 

I sprayed my baking sheet with olive oil spray, and placed the patties on the sheet. I think we got right around 20 of them.

Just before I put them in the oven I decided to dust them with a little more cumin. Who doesn’t love cumin? I baked them about half an hour. Just keep checking them. You want them done or your tummy will not be happy with raw mushrooms and beans. 

While they were baking, I finished cooking the rest of the chickpeas, then put them into a newly washed food processor bowl with some lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and blended it into hummus. 

For the sauce, I used a mason jar with a lid. I added 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, some fresh chives, the sour cream and shook it up. It  should have chopped cucumber in it, but I didn’t have any and improvised. 

When the falafel patties were done, they looked like this.

SO GOOD. We didn’t have pita so we dipped them into the hummus and dribbled sauce on them.  My husband made them into little falafel sandwiches.  We managed to eat most of them in no time flat.  
The flavor of the mushroom was there, but it is very complimentary to the other flavors. You could endlessly vary this recipe to suit your own tastes. As long as you keep the ration of mushroom to chickpea 1:1, and use lots of cumin,  the rest of the ingredients are all up to you. Go crazy.


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