Ever since I learnt about the wondrous immune boosting properties of the Turkey Tail, I have been excited to try this recipe. This year especially, as we enter the depths of winter during a global pandemic, an immune boosting, warming and locally foraged tea is ‘just what the doctor ordered’!
I have loved ever minute of mushroom season, getting out multiple days a week to see what mushrooms I can find, but now this comes to an end, the remaining goodies are getting fewer and farer between. However, the trusty Turkey Tail can be found all year round so I thought now was the perfect time for its introduction!
The Turkey Tail
One of the hardier and more abundant mushrooms, the Turkey Tail, is found all year round however is best in the autumn and winter.
It is a bracket fungus, which grows out of fallen trees or branches or sometimes standing deadwood. As you can see from the picture it has a very distinctive look that is similar to a Turkey’s Tail – the name is appropriately fitting!
The top of the fungus has small concentric wavy circular rings that are various shades of brown, greys and dusty reds/pinks. The texture of the top of the bracket is slightly furry or fuzzy to touch.
The underside of the turkey tail is white with distinctive pores. These pores are important for correctly identifying Turkey Tail Mushrooms.
There are a couple of species that you could confuse with Turkey tail which I have outlined below. Always triple and quadruple check your foraged mushrooms before eating them or using them medicinally. Use multiple sources for identification purposes, and always check for similar species that may cause confusion.
The false turkey tail
Very similar in appearance, with the same shape, and the turkey tail-like concentric circles.
The differences are in the colour. The false turkey tail tends to have a more orange appearance.
The other main difference is the underside. The false turkey tail has NO PORES but a smooth or wrinkled slightly orange/tan underside.
Purple Toothed Polypore
This is found mainly on dead pine trees, especially Dougas-fir. However, this is often hard to determine as when trees are dead or decaying their identification features are harder to distinguish.
The shape and concentric circles are similar to that or the turkey tail.
The cap colour varies and is hard to distinguish however it tends to have green algae growing on the top.
The pores are irregular, often tooth like or form a maze, and they have a strong purple colouring that fades to a brown/beige with age.
This species is less common than the others above, however grows in the same location as the turkey tail and has the same distinctive ‘turkey tail’ appearance on the top
The differences are in the underside. The pores do not form in near circular holes but instead are elongated and created a maze-like arrangement.
Prevents and fights the common cold and flu
The turkey tail mushroom has long been known for its immune boosting properties. It is sold in powdered and capsule form in most health shops. It is particularly useful for post viral fatigue or for people who are susceptible to infection following a cold or flu. If taken regularly, as a supplement or in tea, throughout the winter it will keep the immune system heightened and help to protect against those winter lurgies.
2. Contains high levels of Antioxidants
Consuming foods with high levels of antioxidants helps to balance out unstable molecules in the body (such as free radicals) that cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been known to increase the risk of developing certain health conditions such as cancers and heart disease.
3. May help with the treatment of certain cancers
Turkey tail mushrooms has demonstrated to have antitumour properties, linked to their immune boosting effects. They also contain components that are known to supress the growth of certain cancers.
3. Assist with the use of Chemotherapy during Cancer treatment
Chemotherapy is an immunosuppressing drug, so often Turkey Tail mushrooms are used in conjunction with traditional chemotherapy to try and maintain a healthy and functioning immune system.
5. Can enhance gut health
Turkey tail contains prebiotics which help to nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut required for a healthy functioning digestive system.
Consumption of Turkey Tail mushrooms has been known to increase levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria which is linked to improved intestinal symptoms, enhanced immune system, reduced cholesterol levels, lower risks of certain cancers and improved digestion.
Making the Tea
The turkey tail can be used in two ways, either fresh or dried.
Drying a Turkey Tail
The best way to dry Turkey Tail, or any mushroom actually, is by using a dehydrator. This is now on my Christmas wish list as they are so handy for preserving a whole range of foraged goods.
However, you can also dry the mushrooms out using an oven on the lowest temperature setting. The mushrooms should be cleaned, dried and laid out on a baking tray and then left in the oven for 24 hours. This is not an ideal situation for me as I don’t feel comfortable leaving the oven on for this amount of time.
Once dried the mushrooms need to be crushed into a powder using a pestle and mortar, or another grinding process (a coffee grinder works well too).
The tea making process
If using fresh turkey tails, as I have, you need to clean off any mud or bits of decaying wood from the mushrooms, and then gently simmer the mushrooms in water for an hour.
If using dried you can skip this step and proceed straight to the good stuff!
The Turkey Tail mushroom, as you would expect, gives off a very ‘mushroomy’ taste and this is why extra ingredients are often added to the tea.
For 1 cup of tea, you need around 20g of mushrooms. I have just boiled up a load of mushrooms, and then will store the tea in the fridge to use throughout the week.
Once you have either boiled up your mushrooms, or added 1 teaspoon of ground mushroom powder to boiling water you can add your accompaniments.
For 1 cup of tea add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric and ½ teaspoon of honey.
And enjoy, your gut, overall health and taste buds will be thanking you!