Turkey Tail Tea
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) is a beautiful, ecologically important fungus that has gained modern-day fame for medicinal uses that date back thousands of years. While modern medical research is supporting that claim and identifying many bioactive compounds, I haven’t delved into the peer-reviewed literature enough to know if there have been any scientifically proven benefits to drinking Turkey Tail tea. The research I know about looked at specific extracts that may or may not be present in homebrew. Regardless, I do make Turkey Tail powder (Photo 1) to enjoy as tea during cold PEI winters.
Turkey Tail is common across PEI, and can be found on downed hardwoods, including cut stumps and logs. This polypore is very pliable, with an upper surface that is velvety soft and sporting bands of colour like the tail of a Wild Turkey (Photo 2); the underside is white with many tiny pores (Photo 3). There are a few look-alikes, but these features differentiate Turkey Tail from the others. If in doubt, check out the Totally True Turkey Tail Test on mushroomexpert.com
You can make tea from chopped fresh Turkey Tails, but I prefer to process it and have it on hand all winter. I collect Turkey Tail near my home in central PEI and spread the caps out in a single layer to dry. I do mine in the oven on the lowest setting (150F) for about four hours, but you could also use a dehydrator or just leave them out to airdry over a few days. You’ll know they’re fully dry when you can crack them like a potato chip. (Full disclosure, I once forgot my Turkey Tails for several weeks in the paper bag I used for collecting. When I checked them, they were perfectly dry and ready to use, though I don’t recommend this as a standard approach!)
I process the dried Turkey Tails in a blender until finely ground (Photo 1) and store the powder in a glass jar until ready to use. To make tea, I bring my water to a boil, add two to three tablespoons of Turkey Tail, reduce the heat, simmer for 15-20 minutes, and strain. Turkey Tail tea has a mild, earthy, mushroomy flavour that is nice on its own or with a bit of honey or maple syrup added.
Although tea is my go-to use for Turkey Tail powder, I also toss it into homemade soups or sauces for added flavour (a useful ‘secret ingredient’). I sometimes add Turkey Tail to my Chaga tea as well. You can learn how to identify and process Chaga in my blog post here: https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/chaga