Sustainable Foraging: Turkey Tail Mushrooms - Medicinal Magic
Luckily for us all, turkey tail mushrooms are one of the most widely growing medicinal mushrooms in the country. With no known poisonous look alike, it's easy to learn to forage, especially since its one of the most expensive to buy!
Turkey Tails grow on dead and decaying deciduous trees. Here in Washington, I find them on Giant Maple, Alder, and Birch. First, look for wide variety in stripes; if the stripes are monochromatic and grey, you have a look alike. Look for a variety of browns, oranges, and cream colors. Also look for a slight fuzzy velvet texture in the stripes. Hold it up to the light to verify. Next, pores. The pores are tiny. You might need a magnifying glass. Look alikes have no pores or larger pores. Turkey Tails will have at least 3 tiny pores within the area a size of the tip of a ballpoint pen!
I'm not a medical professional and I don't give medical advice. But fortunately, you don't need to take it from me; the medicinal value of turkey tail mushrooms has been touted by numerous studies:
They boost immunity, including against the common cold virus (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/)
Improves cancer survival rates (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq)
Chock full of antioxidants, fights free radicals, and treats damage done by stress (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010034/)
Fights viruses like HPV, particularly when used in conjunction with other medicinal mushrooms (http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,266d4152107fca7a,3512deba5cc9e72b.html)
Improves gut flora and function (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25006989/)
Also, be sure to turn your mushrooms upside down and expose their under side to the sun. "Charging" your mushrooms in the sun for a little while will increase their vitamin D content (a friend and amateur mycologist taught me that nifty trick)!
Freshly harvested mushrooms need to be dried (either with low heat below 120° or freeze dried) or frozen if you have too many to immediately use. I add turkey tails to an infusion of fresh ginger and lemon or lime every morning. Infusions like these are steeped for 20 minutes. This is a very mild dose.
For full extraction, turkey tails require a longer boil time. It's a 6 to 1 water to turkey tail ratio. The decoction is boiled for 1 hour and yields 1 total cup of tea. I've seen reports that drinking one cup of decoction tea is a safe, if not strong, dose. Note too that the mushrooms can be added to soups and broths to make food itself medicinal. For vegans diet adherents, you can add finely chopped or powdered mushrooms to a slow cooker filled with black beans and veggies and have a nutrient dense meal by dinner.
Enjoy... and cheers to your health!