Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor) are a beautiful and plentiful mushroom species that can be used to boost your immune system. Turkey tail grows throughout the globe and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and in modern cancer treatment in Japan today. There’s a great article in the huffington post about a recent medical study on it’s benefits for breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. I brew it whenever I chance upon harvesting a handful and drink it as a healthy tea.
Where do I look?
- Alder forests in our area, you’re looking for dead hardwood logs for the host substrate
When do I look?
- Spring for fresh specimens
- No gills – tiny pores on underside instead (check with hand lens), underside is white. 3-8 pores per millimeter.
- Thin and flexible
- Top of fungi looks like a turkey tail pattern, zonate with highly contrasting colours varying from brown, reddish, ocre, white, cream etc…
- Growing on dead wood in a shelf like pattern, bracket fungi
- Top of cap is velvety to the touch (velvet zones, frequently white to grey, alternate with smooth ones, frequently brown to red)
- 10 cm wide growth, max. in width
Know these look a likes first…
- There are several Trametes species that grow in BC. Trametes hirsuta called Hairy turkey tail (top of cap very hairy and greyish, margin of cap is brown, anise scented) is the one in our area that is most easily confused with Trametes versicolor
- If there is a green hue to the fungi, it’s due to a green algae that can grow on the mushroom and may be an indicator that the mushrooms are older, also the darker the mushroom is the older it is. Generally, I look for younger specimens with no algae.
How to make turkey tail tea
- Wash the mushrooms and remove any bark or dirt
- Roughly chop them up into small pieces
- Ratio: 2 cup of water to 1 handful of mushrooms
- Boil the water and then bring down to a simmer, add the mushrooms and simmer for 1 hour, strain and refrigerate
- Turkey tail tea tastes like… wait for it… mushrooms.
A hand lens is essential to identify Trametes versicolor correctly as there are so many look alikes. For more details on how to ID, Michael Kuo has an excellent test…
Please use caution when hunting for edible mushrooms. This is just a rough guide which is no substitute for going out with an experienced wildcrafter. Most mushrooms aren’t deadly poisonous, but it’s no fun getting sick and not worth the risk! Come with us on a mushroom tour to start you off on the right foot.
David Arora’s – “All that the rain promises and more” is a great handbook to give you more information on specific Pacific Northwest mushrooms.