My First Foraged Mushroom: Turkey Tail

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Trametes versicolor

I’ve been putting off writing this because off a rookie error I’ve been kicking myself for ever since. I found this mushroom back in February, five whole months ago but I didn’t take a photo of it in situ! [groan] I have since come to realise the importance of photographing everything I find. 
I could use a stock photo, but I prefer to stick with original photography, so I’ll update when I find some more.

Edit: Updated. 

Trametes versicolor


We were walking home through the woods, enjoying the signs of Spring, when we came across a dead tree,  and I noticed the mushrooms. 

I didn’t know that I knew what they were but a voice in my head said “Turkey Tail”… I’m not suggesting some kind of divine whisperation (though I’m not ruling it out either!), most likely I had come across it somewhere or other without paying much attention and my subconscious had filed it away usefully. 

Turkey Tail Mushroom


I took only a small sample to further investigate and was impressed to discover that the voice was indeed correct!

Using a combination of online research and my mushroom book, I was able to make a positive identification. 

There was some confusion due to the fact that my Mushroom book at the time named it as Coriolus versicolor or Varicololoured Bracket… (I have a better book now)

It is more widely known today as Trametes versicolor or, it’s common name, Turkey Tail, presumably due to it’s resemblance to the tail feathers of the wild turkey.

One of the first things I look for when investigating a plant or fungi for consumption are poisonous look-alikes. 
Although there are some similar looking mushrooms, T. versicolor is easily distinguished by it’s porous underside. And reassuringly none of them appear to be toxic, many having potential benefits of their own.

Trametes versicolor


My book listed this mushroom as inedible which confused me and taught me a valuable lesson…
There is a vast spectrum between edible and toxic when it comes to mushroom foraging!
Edible doesn’t always mean delicious and inedible doesn’t mean poisonous and even poisonous doesn’t always mean inedible (but that is a subject for the more experienced fungi forager).

Trametes versicolor


So in researching Trametes versicolor, I learned that although considered inedible due to being rather tough and leathery; it is recognised for it’s medicinal benefits. 

As someone with a healthy mistrust of pharmaceuticals, I’ve always had a keen interest in traditional forms of medicine.
Along with many other mushrooms, Turkey tail has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. An extraction called Polysaccharide Krestin (PSK) has been approved for cancer treatment in Japan since the seventies and is still used, often in combination with conventional treatment. More recently gaining interest in Western medicine.
Another extract of this mushroom that has gained interest in modern medicine is polysaccharide peptide (PSP)

Turkeytail mushroom

Where And When

I found this one on a fallen tree trunk in February. As I understand it is commonly found across the UK (and most of the world) on Deciduous dead wood throughout the year.

How To Use Turkey Tail Mushroom

Obviously not a mushroom prized for it’s culinary contributions. Never the less, I felt confident it had some worthy health benefits. 
It is most likely used as a tea, traditionally speaking, however, I’m not a fan of mushroom tea. 
But if you add some veg and call it soup, I’m in!

Turkey Tail

I’m not sure how long you would need to cook the pieces to make them palatable, or indeed if you ever could. I decided to dry and powder them in my spice grinder.

I was more than a little surprised when the hard thin pieces, instead of becoming the compact powder I had expected, turned into…    Fluff! 

It does dissolve somewhat when added to liquid. I added it to various soups, stews and sauces and found it added a pleasant mushroomy flavour, though sometimes a little gritty at the end.

Turkey Tail Fluff

Final Thoughts

I kinda wish I’d picked more of it, but I do tend to feel that you shouldn’t take a lot of something unless you know you’re going to use it. 

My jar has been empty for some time now and I’m keen to replenish it! 

I’m definitely happy with my first foraged mushroom. 😊

Jar Of Turkey Tail Fluff

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment. Are you familiar with Turkey Tail? Have you tried it yourself or have any interesting experiences to share?
Let me know, below.

Happy Foraging Foodies!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Alison Bailey

    I know this post is over a year old, but I am very interested as I have also found grinding turkey tail ends up in a mass of fluff! How much would you use in a soup? Wondering about making an extraction. Have you ever done that?

    1. Liza

      Hi Alison,
      Thanks for your comment, sorry for the delayed response. It is quite surprising how it fluffs up isn’t it. I only use a teaspoon or two in a soup, I haven’t tried making an extraction myself. As far I am aware though, a dual extraction of water and alcohol would be advisable to gain the maximum medicinal benefits.

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