Turkey Tail, A Powerful Medicinal Mushroom


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Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom(Photo By Joi Ito/Flickr)

Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is a very common mushroom that can be found all over the world.  It is a decayer of wood and the mushrooms last a long time, often living into the winter. Turkey Tail Mushroom is an ancient indigenous medicine for different cultures around the world. It can be found growing on many types of wood in warm and cold climates alike.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Turkey Tail is almost always used to make a tea.  The tea, not surprisingly has a mushroomy flavor.  Probably best used mixed with other components.

Health Benefits

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom(Photo By Jerzy Opiota/Wikimedia)

Turkey Tail has an ancient history of being used as a medicinal mushroom. Recent scientific research has found that Turkey Tail Mushroom contains Polysacharide-k which is shown to display anticancer activity in tests.  It is useful against a number of different cancer types and acts against the disease in multiple ways.  It may also have antiviral activity and could help strengthen the immune system. It has been used in traditional medicine for a number things including to help fight chronic illnesses.

Cautions

There are no known side effects to Turkey Tail Mushroom. There are some look-a-likes which are not known to be highly toxic but there toxicity has not been studied as much as turkey tail.

Key ID Features

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail Mushroom(Photo By Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

Turkey Tails will only be found growing on dead wood.  The coloration reminds us of a Turkey’s Tail with banding of different shades radiating out from the cap. The pores and spore print are whitish.  That being said there are a number of Fungus that look like Turkey Tail. To rule out crust fungus (Genus:Stereum) make sure that you can actually see the pores, although very small it should not look like a smooth white surface. That will at least get you to the genus Trametes.  To narrow it down to Trametes versicolor make sure the cap is a little fuzzy, the color is not Whitish, the rings of color are sharply contrasting each other, and that the mushroom is somewhat flexible and not hard.

Conclusion

The health benefits of Turkey Tail are legendary.  It has been shown to help fight cancer and has been used for a number of other health reasons.  This mushroom is extremely easy to find most times of the year.  Most people aren’t aware that this safe and powerful medicinal fungus is so common and was an important item for our ancestors.  Next time you feel the need for a hot tea throw in some Turkey Tail for added health benefits.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging

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Shiitake Mushrooms, Easy To Grow In Your Own BackYard


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Here is the easiest Shiitake Mushroom Spawn Kit I could find for sale, since it’s difficult to find Shiitake Mushrooms in the wild.
Shiitake Mushroom Indoor Home Spawn Kit
Lentinula edodes, Shiitake Mushrooms growing on a log

Lentinula edodes, Shiitake Mushrooms growing on a log (Photot By: Sakurai Midori / Wikimedia Commons)

Shiitake Mushroom(Lentinula edodes) is a mushroom native to Japan.  It is not seen growing wild in The United States.  This is a popular mushroom in Asia but has just recently started being introduced to European and American Markets.  What makes this mushroom so interesting is that unlike many other popular mushrooms like Portabella, Shiitake is very easy to grow  yourself.

How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms

This mushroom is very easy to grow in your own backyard.  All you need is a small hardwood log(beech, maple or oak works well) a drill and a bag of Wooden Shiitake Mushroom plugs( colonized with mycelium) purchased online.  Drill some holes in the hardwood log then hammer in the Shiitake Mushroom Plugs and your done.  It takes about a year to start seeing mushrooms grow, but you should get one or two years of harvest from each log. Doing this once a year can give you years of Shiitake mushroom harvesting.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Shiitake has a taste known in Japanese as umami, in English that translated to mean a savory taste, similar to “meaty” mushrooms like portabella.  Shiitake Mushrooms are used in many ways in Asian cuisine.  Some ways they are eaten are raw in vegetable dishes, cooked in vegetable dishes, in soups, also they are dried and rehydrated. The Shitake Mushroom has been cultivated in Korea, China and Japan for over 1000 years.

Health Benefits

There are some medicinal properties of Shiitake Mushrooms, consumption may improve the immune system and may help treat cancer.  Shiitake Mushrooms contain a compound called Active Hexose Correlated Compound(AHCC) which is isolated from Shiitake and is a popular alternative medicine for cancer patients in Japan.  Shiitake also has an impressive amount of nutrients including ergosterol which can form Vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, Potassium, Zinc and more.

Lentinula edodes, Shiitake Mushrooms growing on a log

Lentinula edodes, Shiitake Mushrooms growing on a log (Photo By: Adam Arendell (julius) at Mushroom Observer / Wikimedia Commons)

Cautions

There is less danger of miss-identifying this mushroom because you will probably be growing it yourself, although when growing mushrooms outside there is always a chance of the wood being inoculated accidentally with a wild species of mushroom. But the chances of that species looking similar to Shiitake and being poisonous are rare.  Raw or undercooked Shiitake Mushrooms have caused allergic reactions in about 2% of people.

Conclusion

This is a great mushroom for growing yourself, it’s easy to grow and it tastes great.  The wooden mushroom plugs are available to purchase online.  Add Shiitake Mushroom to your diet for a great taste and some health benefits.


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Puffball Mushroom, You’ll Be Ok If You Follow One ID Feature


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Bovista Puffball Mushroom

Bovista aestivalis Puffball Mushroom (Photo By: Ron Pastorino at Mushroom Observer / Wikimedia Commons)

The Puffball Mushroom(Genus:Calvatia, Bovista and others) is an easily identifiable common mushroom but it has some very, very poisonous look-a-likes, namely young destroying angel and deathcap mushrooms.  Puffball mushrooms fall into a number of genuses, most of them are small(less than 3”) but there is one giant puffball(Calvatia gigantea) that can grow up to one foot diameter and is edible.

Correct Identification

There is one good way to tell puffballs apart from its poisonous look-a-likes, you must cut the mushroom in half from top to bottom.  The inside of edible puffball mushrooms should be pure white, like a marshmallow, or like fresh mozzarella balls, there should be no patterns, or marks or colors or anything other than pure white, and especially no signs of gills.  If you follow this one rule you should be able to enjoy mushroom hunting for puffball mushrooms without worry.  Not all puffballs are edible, and not all are edible at all stages, but if you stick with the rule of pure white inside then you will only be eating edible puffballs.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Giant Puffball

Giant Puffball(Calvatia gigantea)(Photo By: Pavel Savela / Wikimedia Commons)

Puffballs have a mild mushroomy taste that is not overwhelming, some people describe it as an earthy taste.  They can be used in recipes in place of eggplant.  The texture is like tofu so they make a great addition to soups. They should be eaten cooked, baked, boiled, or fried in butter are all common ways to eat this mushroom.  Although it is possible to freeze or dry them they are best when eaten shortly after picking, this may be one reason they are not a popular grocery item.  Washing the interior of the mushroom is not a good idea since it will soak up water like a sponge and become soggy, if you are worried about dirt or germs you can remove the skin from the mushrooms instead.

Health Benefits

The nutritional and health benefits of wild foods are not studied enough.  But there is one important possible health benefit to eating puffballs in the genus Calvatia.  A chemical called calvacin has been found in puffballs in the genus calvatia.  Calvacin is now being studied as a potent cancer drug because of its antitumor properties.  The studies are still ongoing and there have not been any huge breakthroughs, but it is known to prevent tumors when taken on a regular basis.

Cautions

Lycoperdon Puffball Mushroom

Lycoperdon pyrforme Puffball Mushroom (Photo By: Bernd Gliwa / Wikimedia Commons)

The primary caution of this fungus is to make sure it is identified correctly, if you accidentally eat a mushroom in the Amanita genus especially destroying angel(Amanita bisporigera, ocreata, or virosa) or deathcap(Amanita phalloides) then you will probably die within 24 hours.  But the rule mentioned above about making sure the mushroom is pure white is universally accepted, and will keep you safe. Rare allergic reactions have been reported and are usually minor, so always eat a small portion of any new food and wait before indulging in large quantities.

Conclusion

Giant Puffball

Giant Puffball

This is a great mushroom for mushroom hunting, especially the giant puffball because it is almost impossible to misidentify.  It has a mild taste and a familiar texture.  It can be cooked and added to many types of dishes.  So with one identification rule to follow this can be a great wild edible to add to your list.


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Jelly Roll Fungus, sounds better than it looks, but it’s edible.


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Black Jelly Roll

Black Jelly Roll (Photo By: Jerzy Opiola / Wikimedia Commons)

The name Jelly Roll (Exidia recisa, glandulosa, nigricans) conjures up images of home made pastries with jelly and sugar, but once you see a picture of this fungus you’ll see the humor in the name.  A very unsightly fungus to say the least, but Amber, Black, or Brown Jelly Roll is in the group of fungus called jelly fungus or cup fungus, another common name for these species is witch’s butter.  A very common fungus, they have a gelatinous texture, but the vast majority of them are edible, some are prized in certain parts of the world.  This species is found growing on recently dead hardwoods.

Edibility and Culinary Use

It is rather tasteless with a gelatinous texture, but absorbs easily flavors it is cooked with. You can eat them raw or cooked.  They are used to in salads and soups. They are also very commonly seen and make for a good snack when you’re in the mood for something a little different.

Health Benefits

Brown Jelly Roll

Brown Jelly Roll (Photo By: Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons)

Studies on nutrition and health benefits of this particular fungus are rare but fungus of the same Family are know to have many health benefits including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Similar species also have huge amounts of proteins, fats, polysaccharides and Iron, so eating them regularly could prevent diseases related to iron deficiency such as anemia.  This species probably also contains Pectin, Calcium, Vitamin D, B1, and B2.

Cautions

This species is sometimes is said to be inedible, but that probably only refers to the fact that this particular species is not commonly eaten.

Conclusion

This is one of those foods that are often overlooked because most people would agree, it looks gross.  But Jelly Roll Fungus should be consumed much more than it is now because of its health benefits.  It is easy to identify and harvest, and it works well when cooked or raw.

Amber Jelly Roll

Amber Jelly Roll ( Photo By: Andreas Kunze / Wikimedia Commons)

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Chicken Of The Woods, An Easy To ID Meat Substitute


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Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods. Notice the Porous bottom surface. They do not have gills. (Photo By: Jim Champion / Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re a beginner to fungus foraging, Chicken of the woods( Genus: Laetiporus) is a great fungus to seek out because it’s widespread in The United States and easy to distinguish from any look-a-likes as long as you know a few fundamental identification features. There are a number of species in the genus that all look very similar, and are all considered to be edible, a very common species is Laetiporus Sulphureus, which grows in the Northeast and feeds more on hard woods like oak rather than softwoods.

Edibility And Culinary Use

Younger brackets are edible cooked. As they get old they dry out and become inedible.  This fungus’ claim to fame is its chicken-like fibrous texture.  The taste is bland but can pick up other flavors that it’s cooked with.  You can fry, bake or boil chicken of the woods, these cooking methods produce slightly different textures and give you some options for preparation.

Health Benefits

Chicken of the woods has the ability to inhibit certain bacteria like staph bacteria(Staphylococcus aureus). It may also help prevent absorption of nutrients  into cancerous cells.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

Key ID Features

This fungus only grows on trees, either living or dead. Different species grow on different types of trees including hardwoods and softwoods, as well as different heights in the tree.  This fungus is a type of polypore which means that it has pores(small holes) on the underside, instead of gills.  The part that most people would call a mushroom is referred to as a bracket when it is a polypore growing from a tree and has no stalk.  The top of the bracket is orange/yellow and grows in a shelf-like pattern, hence one common name, sulfur shelf Mushroom.  There is typically a lighter colored margin at the edge of the bracket about 1/2″ thick(see photo).  The underside is lighter than the top and can range from white to yellow. The pores of this species are very small and dense so you will have to look closely to see them. Once you have found the fungus, chances are it will be in the same spot for a few years before it dies.

Cautions

 Laetiporus Sulphureus

Laetiporus Sulphureus on Willow Tree( Photo By: Andy Potter / geograph.org.uk)

There are some minor cautions with chicken of the woods.  There have been rare reports of minor reactions in sensitive people including, swollen lips, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and disorientation.  These reactions may be due to a number of causes including, allergies to the fungus, individual reactions to the fungus’s proteins, toxins absorbed by woods such as eucalyptus or cedar, and eating old decaying brackets.

Conclusion

For expert and beginner fungus foragers alike Chicken of the Woods should be a staple wild edible. Its easy to identify, has no known deadly look-a-likes, and a texture that works well in many culinary dishes. This fungus is often perennial, so once you find it, you can return year after year to harvest.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging

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