Mushroom experts say that if you can't find a turkey tail mushroom, then it might be time to get your eyes checked. Turkey tail mushrooms, known to the scientific community as Trametes versicolor, are among the most common types of mushroom and one of the easiest to recognize. They are spoon or cup-shaped and certainly resemble the spread-out tail of a male turkey, thus the inspiration for their name. They could be brown, white, tan, purple, red, orange, or even all these colors at once.
Turkey tail is a common group of fungus that grows on the sides of tree logs or stumps, particularly on oaks, maples, and pines. They are leathery to the touch, and have none of the stalks that most people associate with mushrooms. Turkey tail usually flourishes during May until December; and once grown, could last for years.
Turkey tail has actually been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for over a thousand years, particularly in China, where it's referred to as "yun zhi," and Japan, where it's called "kawaratake" or cloud mushrooms. People in these countries have found that these mushrooms can enhance one's immune system and boost longevity. In recent years, turkey tail has been the focus of some controlled clinical trials in Asia aimed at research on the immune system.
In May of this year, a clinical study supported by the National Institutes of Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Bastyr University Research Institute studied the turkey tail mushroom and its effects on the immune systems of people who had undergone radiation therapy. Immunity was determined by lymphocyte cell count and by natural killer (NK) cell activity. The research produced evidence that the mushroom could increase NK cell activity.
Turkey tail mushrooms were traditionally taken in the form of a tea or hot water decoction. While health food stores often carry extracts of this mushroom, many people prefer to enjoy them fresh, as a culinary ingredient. Sautéed mushroom is a popular side dish with meat, fish, and poultry.
Turkey tail mushrooms are not only used for food and for medicinal purposes. These intriguing mushrooms have been used in jewelry, as well as in arts, crafts and trades, such as dyeing paper, wool, and various fabrics.
An Overview of Turkey Tail Mushrooms and Their General Uses