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Turkey Tail Mushrooms – A Guide

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Trametes versicolor, otherwise known as the Turkey tail mushroom, is a common multicolored fungus that grows on tree trunks and fallen trees in wooded areas. You’ve likely come across them before, without ever realizing you were close to a mushroom that has some of the best medicinal benefits in the plant and fungi world!

Fortunately, once you know about the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms and how to identify them, you’ll want to buy, grow, and harvest them for yourself so you can get all the delicious benefits for yourself!

In this guide, we’ll take you by the hand and explain everything you need to know about turkey tail mushrooms.

Where To Find Them And When

Turkey tail mushrooms can be found growing naturally on decaying stumps, fallen logs and dying trees in temperate forests all over the world. The Turkey tail is the most commonly found fungus in Canada and the United States, but they can be found almost anywhere in the world and grow all year round.

How To Identify Them

Turkey tail mushrooms have two notable lookalikes, namely the Violet-Toothed Polypore and the False Turkey Tail. Turkey tail mushrooms feature a wide range of colors mostly within the brown to red range, while a false turkey tail has a bright orange hue. Both species are highly zonate (in other words, they have varying surfaces that are velvety to touch, as well as separate and distinct concentric color zones).

The Turkey tail mushroom is a polypore, meaning that it has pores on the underside. These pores may be difficult to identify, as they’re extremely small. If you’re looking at a true Turkey tail, you’ll notice a light fuzz on its surface. It should glisten in the light, giving it a silvery sheen. Texturally, a fresh turkey tail mushroom should be thin and flexible to move around.

How To Grow Them

Because Turkey tails grow so easily in so many parts of the world, it’s more common for people to collect them rather than growing them themselves. They mostly grow on decaying trees, so it’s best for any cultivation to take place on a log in a terrarium or in the garden.

You can buy a grow kit if you’d like to grow your own. This way you can be sure of what you’re getting.

Health Benefits

For centuries, Turkey tail mushrooms have been used for their medicinal values. In traditional Chinese medicine, people utilized Turkey tail extract (or Yun Zhi in Mandarin) as a treatment for respiratory conditions. In Japan, Turkey tails are known as kawaritake, or ‘cloud mushrooms’. Both cultures have used Turkey tail mushrooms in tea and in powdered form.

Full of Antioxidants

Turkey tail mushrooms contain a wide variety of phenol and flavonoid antioxidants. Antioxidants are incredibly important to the health of your cells as they prevent oxidization, fight signs of aging, boost your immune system, and reduce inflammation. Inflammation is now being linked to long term diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, cancers, and degenerative diseases.

Cancer-Fighting

According to a 2014 study, the extract from this mushroom may even be useful in fighting certain types of cancer, alongside chemotherapy. Turkey tail mushrooms contain compounds called polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide-K (PSK).  Both of these compounds appear to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. PSP is also found to boost the immune system, particularly when used alongside other cancer treatments.

Promotes Gut Health

The Turkey tail mushroom can also assist in promoting gut health. Your gut bacteria is directly linked to your immune system and Turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which help nourish these helpful bacteria. This is extremely valuable because the majority of ailments are caused by a failure or overreaction of the immune system.

How To Cook Turkey Tail Mushrooms

This mushroom is rough and leathery, so isn’t generally palatable to eat as it is. When fresh, it is best dried and used as a tea or added to recipes.

Hot Water Extraction

In order to properly get the benefits from this mushroom, you’ll need to perform something called a “hot water extraction.” Don’t be intimidated – this is straightforward and quite similar to making tea!

To do this, the mushrooms should be left to simmer in hot water, around 180F (82C), for about 3-4 hours. This will allow for the Beta-D-Glucans (which stimulate your immune system) and other valuable compounds to be “pulled out” of the mushroom and render it bioavailable. (Essentially, so your body can assimilate it easily.)

The resulting liquid is then spray dried, and mixed back in with the fiber to make a powdered mushroom extract.

Turkey Tail Stock

A good way to use your dried Turkey tail is to make it into stock. The recipe below is a delicious immune-boosting base for soups, sauces and gravies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful Turkey Tail mushroom (fresh or dried)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 2 roughly chopped carrots
  • 2 stalks roughly chopped celery
  • 1 strip (about 5 grams) of Kombu ‘kelp’ or any other local edible seaweed, for saltiness.

Instructions:

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large pot and cover with a gallon (c. 4.5 liters) of water.
  2. Cover with the lid and simmer for at least 2 hours, topping up with more water if needed.
  3. Strain all the ingredients, reserving the liquid, and add to your favorite sauce, soup or risotto.
  4. Keep the mixture refrigerated and add to other sources for a week or so.

If all of this seems like a lot of effort, you can also find Turkey tail extract in easy to use capsules.

Conclusion

Turkey tail mushrooms are a valuable aid to good health. Their medicinal benefits have been studied and proven a large number of times. Consequently, they are well worth considering as an addition to your daily regime.

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Turkey Tail

 

David Moore

A computer programmer for many years, I have an interest in mushrooms for culinary and health purposes. I feel that there are many people who might find that the inclusion of mushrooms as part of their diet would provide a boost to their well-being.

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