Turkey Tail, Shelf fungi
Turkey tail, also called Trametes versicolor, is a saprobic mushroom. In general, saprobic mushrooms are those that send out digestive enzymes to their sprawling fungal threads, so they can break down plant matter, poop, pine cones, fruit, houses, crops, petroleum, and more. The enzymes are even strong enough to break down lignin, the stuff that gives wood its structure. Turkey tail specifically grows abundantly throughout the world on rotting hardwood logs that have fallen in forest ecosystems. Ultimately these logs, with the help of fungi like turkey tail, get returned to the earth as future soil.
The fruiting body of turkey tail is wavy, woody and leathery, fanning out in a shelf with various stripes of color in browns, grays, and reds. Their display ends up resembling the tail feather of a turkey, hence the name. They grow in beautiful clusters that spread horizontally across hardwood logs in deciduous woodlands.If you were to flip the fruiting body upside down, you would not see the classic gills of many mushrooms, but tiny pores upon closer examination. Turkey Tail is thus called a polypore. In these pores is where the spores, the fungi’s seed, come from.
fungi as medicine
Many of you, especially those into herbal medicine, have probably heard of turkey tail. Turkey tail is known for its wellness-supporting qualities which may be in part due to the amount of beta glucans found in the mushroom. It is one of more studied health promoting mushrooms out there and has been revered for its beneficial medicinal properties by many cultures around the world, specifically indigenous and asian cultures. In fact, its first recorded use stems back to the Han Dynasty in China thousands of years ago. Currently, turkey tail is being studied seriously in clinical trials, which are reporting use in helping the healthy and daily functioning of the immune and digestive systems.
At Wild Coast Brew, we forage for turkey tail in both winter and fall flushes on our farm's riparian woodlands specifically on fallen alders. Once harvested and dried, we add this earthy-flavored turkey tail to one of our most magical forest foraged brews, The Stoic.