Turkey Tail Tea
Commonly known as "turkey tail" mushrooms, Trametes versicolor are common mushrooms found all throughout the wooded areas of North America. We foraged these just outside of Winters, California, but you can find them anywhere wood is decomposing. Take a closer look at fallen logs, trees, and stumps and you'll begin to see them everywhere. In addition to being hardworking members of their ecosystems, the mushrooms are simply lovely to look at, with striped caps in typical "turkey" tones of red, brown, and buff.
It's important to note that if you're looking for turkey tails to make into tea, that you correctly identify them (there are imposters). Luckily, it's relatively easy to tell the difference! The underside of the mushroom is called the hymenium or "fertile surface," and this is where spores are produced and expelled. Because it is a polypore, turkey tails hold their spores in tubes, which appear as tiny holes all along the underside, which are visible to the naked eye. Imitators hymenia will have gills (think oyster mushroom), teeth, or appear smooth.
The reported health benefits of turkey tails range from aiding immunity and digestion to combatting certain kinds of cancer cancer(!) and preventing and healing common colds and flus. The most common way of enjoying these mushrooms is by making them into tea. You can dry them out and store them for a long time to use for tea whenever you feel a cold coming on or need a little boost. Rinse the mushrooms and set them out to dry or pop them in the oven for a few minutes (door ajar). We recommend cutting them up before they're dried.
The *recipe* is simply 1 cup whole or chopped turkey tail mushrooms to 5 cups water, but you can adjust this proportion based on how strong you like your tea. You can also add honey, spices, and other herbs to taste. We enjoy the savory flavor of turkey tails, turmeric, and dried nettles, but also make a sweeter version with lemon and honey.
Be sure to boil the mushrooms long enough to begin breaking them down, about an hour. Then strain, add any honey or spices you desire, and enjoy!