Date of the last update: 10.03.2022
The very title of this article is a great mystery. It makes us wonder what it is all about and how did the turkey, or rather its tail, find its way into the forest. The solution to this puzzle is a parasitic fungus – Trametes versicolor. The mushroom owes its common name to its colourful structure and the shape resembling a turkey tail (hence its English name: Turkey tail mushroom). Although trametes is a parasite as an arboreal fungus, it has a great potential for us, humans, when it comes to fighting cancer.
Table of Contents:
- What is trametes versicolor and how to recognise it?
- Where and when to find trametes versicolor?
- Using trametes versicolor in the fight against cancer
- Trametes versicolor in the kitchen
You can read this article in 4 minutes.
What is trametes versicolor and how to recognise it?
Trametes versicolor is an arboreal, parasitic fungus. Unfortunately, it is not an edible mushroom. I often look for these edible specimens in the forest to use their potential in my kitchen. It grows in tiered layers, attached with its sides or centre to dead wood. Young turkey tails are uniform in colour, light brown, velvety and hard to recognize. Over time, they acquire a silky shine and, what is most important to distinguish this species from other trametes, they have colourful zones that look deceptively like successive layers that overlap each other and create a beautiful arboreal mushroom. The fruiting body has a sharp, thin and slightly wavy finish with a silky feel and a shine.
Where and when to find trametes versicolor?
In our country, it is a very common arboreal mushroom – a SAPROTROPH, which means that it draws energy from dead organic matter. So if we want to find a turkey tail, we need to look for it on old trees, decaying stumps in forests, parks and even near our house, on a rotting stump after a felled tree in our yard. Most importantly, this mushroom grows all year round. Believe it or not, in winter you can find this health-promoting arboreal fungus under the snow blanket.
Using trametes versicolor in the fight against cancer
The turkey tail has the power to fight cancer! It inhibits the growth of tumour cells. When used with chemo- or radiotherapy, it mitigates their effects: alleviates fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and severe pain that accompany these treatments.
Studies at Minnesota Medical School and Bastyr Univeristy have shown a positive therapeutic effect on women with breast cancer. They had been taking the varicolored turkey tail extract for four weeks. After that time increased immunity was observed with no harmful side effects. In the fruiting body, the so-called protein residue is isolated. It is used as the future of cancer treatment. In addition, trametes versicolor helps with digestive system diseases and acute leukaemia.
Trametes versicolor in the kitchen
Trametes versicolor might be inedible, but it does not mean that we cannot use this arboreal mushroom in our kitchen for various experiments. Wild food lover Pascal Baudar* recommends adding some spices to turkey tail infusion, so that the medicinal, rather unsavoury drink turns into a tasty forest brew with therapeuthic properties or lemonade. Taking into account our climate and the availability of wild herbs in winter, we can add rosehips, dried cranberries or hawthorn fruit to the jar with the infusion. The arboreal mushroom – turkey tail ‒ may be our base to which we can add other ingredients. Remember that the mushroom has a bitter taste, so we have to look for something to help mask that flavour. Following Pascal’s suggestions, I decided to put the mushrooms in the vinegar myself, so that after 3 months I had a tasty, healthy, flavoured vinegar, which I would use cold (to preserve its properties) for cooking and marinating food. There are plenty of ideas, but if that’s too difficult for you, you can always reach for a turkey tail in a powdered or capsule version.
During walks, we may be unaware that the tree fungus we pass can work wonders for our health. And most interestingly, even though it is inedible, we can take advantage of its taste and healing properties to prepare a plant-based beverage, kvass or ordinary infusion with the addition of our favourite spices. I am always pleasantly surprised when something nice happens to me every time I learn more about wild food. Trametes versicolor, an arboreal fungus, is a perfect example of this.
*PASCAL BAUDAR – Los Angeles-based wild herb lover, researcher, and author of books. Wild herbs, herb cultivation, and ethnobotany have been his passion for 17 years.
Pascal Baudar – „Roślinny browar”