One of the newest species of mushroom I discovered on our property while taking my daily walk, was a big bunch of Turkey Tail Mushrooms growing on a dead fallen log along the creek bank. I was stoked! Before harvesting, however, I double-checked the ID with some online research and indeed, these were the genuine article! I will explain how to identify these beauties, reveal the powerful medicinal properties of this fungus, and tell you how to use them (or at least how I’m going to use them).
Identifying the Turkey Tail
- Soft, velvety texture on the top surface
- Very small, round pores on underside (approx. 2-4 pores per millimeter, maybe more. Barely visible to the naked eye.)
- Underside is white or light gray
- Top side has very distinctive “rings” of color, or concentric color zones, consisting of brown, reddish brown, grey, or white
- Caps are thin and pliable. They are very flexible, and do not tear or break apart very easily.
Turkey Tails grow much of the year, spanning an 8-month “season.” They are unlike any other fungi in its long-term propagation window. However, as with any other fungi, Turkey Tails grow in extremely moist, shaded environments, such as the ones pictured above, which were found along our creek bank. Turkey Tails are always found on dead and decaying logs. There are a couple of look- alikes, such as the “False Turkey Tail [FTT]” (smooth underside and darker colored) and the “Violet Toothed Polypore [VTP]” (distinct, tooth-like purple pores on the underside). FTT mushrooms are indeed medicinal as well, but have a more bitter flavor. However, the VTP is neither edible nor medicinal – avoid this one at all costs!
Harvesting and How to Use:
The Turkey Tail Mushroom has a hard “core” that attaches itself very aptly to the bark of the fallen log/tree. I found that the easiest way to harvest them, is to grab it firmly at one end, and tear it off horizontally. As seen in the video I posted below, when I tried to grab it in the middle and pull, some of the rotting bark came off right along with it! I learned after the first attempt, and the rest of the harvest was easy-peasy.
After harvesting, wash mushrooms thoroughly in a strainer with a spray nozzle. You’ll notice they turn pretty dark when wet, but that is to be expected.
Now let’s get to the use of Turkey Tail mushrooms. They are quite tough to just eat outright, or to put into recipes. What I am doing with the batch I harvested today, is simply drying them for several days on a paper towel. They can either be dehydrated in a dehydrator or air-dried. I’ve chosen the latter. Lay them out on a couple thicknesses of paper towels after washing them and trimming off the ends that were attached to the tree, with a pair of kitchen shears. Because Turkey Tails are so dense and dry to begin with, it won’t take long to dry. Check and change the paper towels if necessary, turning over the mushrooms once a day. You don’t want any moisture on the paper towels, nor on the mushrooms. Make sure you keep them in an area where there is plenty of air movement (indoors is fine). After several days, when you are sure the mushrooms are bone dry, store them in an airtight container.
The best use of these mushrooms, is to make a tea from them. This can be done by grinding the dried mushroom in a food processor or coffee/spice grinder. This tea is FULL of medicinal benefits (keep reading…), but it does taste bitter (doesn’t any medicine?!). It is best to mix it with some other tea that you enjoy, to help mask the flavor. Adding a bit of honey to the hot tea makes a good bit of difference, too. Steep the tea in just-off-the-boil clean, hot water for several minutes…and drink up!
The Medicinal Wonders of Turkey Tail Mushrooms:
- Prevents and treats colds
- Has cancer-fighting properties: studies have proven that these mushrooms actually fight against cancer-causing cells, and are even being used to kill off cancerous tumors!
- Manages diabetes by lowering glucose levels
- Reduces inflammation
- Rich in antioxidants
- Lowers cholesterol
- Aids in digestion
- Reduces hypertension
- Improves bone health
- Treats Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Turkey Tail Mushrooms are currently being used and widely studied in boosting the immune system and greatly reducing the effects from chemotherapy, in people who are battling cancer. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, and are a great source of potassium and riboflavins. Niacin content is also very high, as well as pantothenic acid, phosporus and even trace amounts of copper.
I hope this information has helped you. If you live near the woods, and near bodies of water, be on the lookout for this powerhouse mushroom!
CLICK HERE to view the video I put together regarding the Turkey Tail mushroom.