Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.
Everything in the forest is connected by a thin layer of rootlike structures know as hyphea. In truth, even the experts don’t know everything there is to know about the thin layer of fungus that makes life on planet earth possible. Now there’s a multitude of types of fungus. Some even act as a communication network between all the different plants in a forest. In Oregon there’s a fungus that’s the largest living organism in the world. Scientists have nicknamed it the “Humongous Fungus” and the mat of hyphea covers many square miles. Even more amazing than that is the fact that it’s a symbiotic fungus that is connected to almost every root in the old growth forest. Fungi are not plants per se. They are their own kingdom and breathe oxygen like we do. And within that kingdom we find that there are different jobs to be done in order to maintain the biosphere. Tonight I’m going to focus on one of the most common Fungi. It’s found in multiple environments and it’s main job is to help turn wood into rich soil. It’s also the most researched fungus in history and tonight’s overview will only scratch the surface.
Keep in mind that Fungi is a weak point in my knowledge of what’s out there that we can use. So in preparation for tonight I’ve listened to hours and hours of lectures from experts and watched hours and hours of video from other foragers trying to piece together little points from what has been said.
First, what we call a mushroom is really just the fruit of something much larger and much weirder. The aforementioned hyphea is the actual fungus. It’s a colony much like a jellyfish that has come together to live as one. Like the yeast in your favorite sour dough bread ( another type of fungus actually) it has to be fed. As long as it has a food source then it’s pretty much immortal. When the food source is exhausted the colony survives by fruiting. Thousands if not millions of hyphea come together and form the mushroom. For Turkey Tail Fungus that emerges as a velvety bracket or shelf that has bands of color above and white pores below. The margin of the Mushroom is always white or cream colored but the colors can be brown, green, gray and blue.
This Turkey Tail Fungus is showing a blue/gray and brown pattern.
The top of the mushroom is covered in fuzz. It really is like touching velvet and the texture of the mushroom is like cheap leather. It’s fairly flexible which makes it easier to distinguish from a look-alike mushroom called parchment mushroom. Parchment mushroom is brittle and dry and not fuzzy. Some of the videos I watched show that both types of mushroom can grow on the same log. As I understand it Turkey Tail Fungus has no poison look-alikes but that some of look-alikes are not at all pleasant. In fact there was an unspoken point of contention between all the experts about the taste of Turkey Tail Fungus. Some said it was sweet, others say it’s bitter and a few just say it’s mushroom flavored. My guess is that the flavor is dependent on the type of wood and environmental conditions it grows in. The one in photos was kinda bland.
This image shows the underside of a Turkey Tail Fungus.
Notice the spots on the underside of this one? That’s where the insects have been feeding. The experts recommend that you leave any Turkey Tail Fungus that the insects have fed on alone because the bugs leave behind contamination.
Speaking of insects, honeybees are drawn to Turkey Tail Fungus. One experiment indicated that the Turkey Tail Fungus helped extend the life of honeybees and helped them to be more vigorous in their last days. It seemed to the researchers that Turkey Tail Fungus helped them to adapt to different stress factors. And here’s where we start to look at the medicinal values of Turkey Tail Fungus.
Turkey Tail Fungus is actually on the list of prescription drugs in Japan. It came onto the scene as an adjunct to cancer treatments. In the wild Turkey Tail Fungus is known to be able to remediate heavy metals from soil by actually binding them into their inert forms. In the cancer treatments it seems to help the patients deal with the after effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. As I have stated before, I’m not really an expert on this so I’m proving a link to the testimony of an expert.
This video is of Paul Stamets’ TED Talk on mushrooms. It’s about thirty minutes long and he’s on the leading edge of research.
The way most people use wikdcrafted Turkey Tail Fungus is in a decoction or a tincture. The mushroom is to tough to eat and so the medicinal parts have to be extracted. (A few people chew it like gum. )
Native Americans found that by tossing a few pieces into a stew that it has a natural preservative function. The fungus has to compete with other Fungi and bacteria in the wild so its developed components that suppress the competition. According to the experts, these compounds in the form of polysaccharides are broad-based and will continue to work against strains that resist modern medicines.
The Turkey Tail Fungus also seems to be able to provide protection/treatment from viruses such as HIV and SARS1. But again, I’m taking someone else’s word for it and would recommend that you speak with a certified expert for further research. Forage Friday is only trivia.
I haven’t done the usual listing of various medicinal values and who uses it for what due to the vast amount of information out there. As I stated before it’s one of the most researched Fungi on the planet and so there’s plenty to find. Of particular interest to me is that some of the research indicates that it might be useful in combating type 2 diabetes. If so then I have a resource for help if times get tough.
Do take a moment and watch the video. It’s well worth the time and it’s a story with a happy ending.
That’s it for tonight friends. Good night and be blessed throughout your days.
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