Saturday, November 19, 2016

How to dry turkey tail mushrooms for medicinal teas

Just a quick post today. Last weekend I came upon a large harvest of turkey tail mushrooms: Trametes versicolor (previously known as Coriolus versicolor). Through generally considered too tough to be edible, turkey tails are one of the most famous medicinal mushrooms.

Turkey tails are prized in Eastern medicine, where they are known as Yun Zhi (cloud fungus) in China, and Kawaratake (mushroom by the riverbank) in Japan.

In Asia, as early as the 50s, doctors and scientists noticed decreases tumor growth, and sometimes tumor shrinkage, in cancer patients who were drinking turkey tail tea. They also noticed improved immune systems and faster recovery from chemotherapy and radiation.

In the US, pre-clinical trials and stage 1 and 2 clinical trials have shown turkey tail to have positive immune-boosting effects for patients with breast, gastrointestinal, and respiratory cancers. In addition, they have isolated a compound which may help inhibit tumor growth. (Medical abstract here)

Don't expect to see turkey tail formally prescribed as medicine any time soon. In the US, the law requires that labs discover exactly which chemical or series of chemical compounds is responsible for the results.

Life. . . just doesn't work that way. As a living organism, turkey tail mushrooms have many, many chemical compounds within them, and it may take years or decades for the scientists to discover exactly what does what. 

Still, turkey tail mushrooms are one of the most potent and important natural medicines we know of, even if we don't know exactly how they work.

More on the same log. I only took about 40-50% for sustainability.

Ok so I got off on a tangent, a bit, lol!

Cleaning turkey tails

Preparing turkey tails for tea is a very simple process. Cleaning can be done either in the field, or at home. Unlike some medicinal polypores (I'm looking at you, Ganoderma!), fresh turkey tails can be trimmed with a scissor rather than a knife. A pair of kitchen shears, which I keep in my foraging kit, is my favorite way. Simply trim off the edge that attached to the log, and rinse off when you get home.

Drying turkey tails

Do a quick check for bug holes, fresh specimens really shouldn't have any, and you ONLY want fresh mushroom, and then pat dry, and layout in the dehydrator. Make sure they are well spaced out, with no overlaps. Set it to about 95-100 degrees F, and let it run for about 24-36 hours, depending on the number of trays you have full. If you have 3+ trays, you definitely want to rotate them every 6-8 hours.

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can do this in the oven. Set to the lowest setting, usually about 200 degrees F, and lay out on baking trays. Again, make sure the mushrooms don't overlap. Place your trays as low as possible in the oven (heat rises, and you want them cool) and run your oven for 24 hours or so, with the oven door open by about 3-4 inches. If you have multiple trays of mushrooms, you definitely want to rotate them frequently.

I can't emphasize enough how much foragers should have a dehydrator. It's a very small investment, and can be used for herbs, fruit, veggies, even meat. During foraging season, mine is running more or less every day. It's a solid investment, and hey - the holidays ARE coming!

Using turkey tails

In Asia, teas made from this mushroom are drunk daily, but I rarely find that level of abundance - weekly to bi weekly is more my speed. I use one average sized cap worth (about 2" wide by 1" wide). If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll grind it up in the spice grinder, but usually I just cut it many many times (sort of like a mince) with a scissor. You want to increase the surface area as much as possible.

Tea from this mushroom is distinctly bitter. It also smells mushroomy, but doesn't really taste mushroomy - at least not to me. The flavor is hard to describe, it's not unpleasant, but it's hardly my favorite either. I like to blend it in with other teas. Republic of Tea used to have a rainforest blend that I found married with the flavor of both turkey tail and ganoderma mushrooms perfectly, but I have yet to find another quite like it. Mostly I steep it with green tea. 


  1. Can you just air dry the turkey tail or does it have to be dried in a dehydrator or oven?

    1. Hey Anon!

      Yes, because turkey tail have such naturally low moisture, you absolutely can air dry them.

      You want to spread them out in a cool, dry area on paper towels. Make sure they don't overlap.

      The location you choose should have good air flow; if everything in your place is a little stuffy, then you should set up a gentle, indirect fan.

      I would flip them over every day. Change the towels if you notice any dampness, but because the mushrooms are low in moisture this probably will not happen.

  2. once the tea is made how long will it keep to be able to drink


    1. You should probably drink the steeped tea within a week, and keep it in the fridge

  3. You should probably drink the steeped tea within a week.

  4. Can properly prepared turkey tail be mixed with pipe tobacco and smoked, still retaining its benefits?

  5. "KAWARA TAKE" in Japanese means "roof tile mushroom." KAWARA means "roof tile" and TAKE means "mushroom." Here is the kanji: 瓦茸. The mushroom overlaps itself like roof tiles, hence its name in Japanese. It has nothing to do with river banks.

  6. When air dried, should the underside be discolored?