by Holly Broden
I like mushrooms. I mean, I am not a trapse through the woods and collect the microbial type of a person, but that doesn’t mean I am not fascinated by them. To be honest, up until four years ago my limited fascination had to do more with how button mushrooms could be deep fried, or sauteed, or mixed in some delicious gravy mixture. And, up until four years ago, that would have been fine. But, things change, people change, and every once in awhile there is someone or something that spurs one to look more closely. That happened for me because of my son and his uttermost dedication to fungi. Recently, on one of his trips home, he went out to check on his beloved mushroom log—the one that now lays at the edge of the backyard woods. What’s so special about that log. Four years ago, he drilled 100 holes in an old aspen branch and plugged it, literally, with turkey tail mushroom spores or Trametes versicolor in the scientific realm. It was a great experiment and it was the start of a journey. And, one that has produced fruit. So, he grabbed a couple of turkey tail mushrooms from the log and made us some tea. I repeated that process a month or so later to give my husband the life cycle experience. I was okay using the turkey tail mushrooms he grabbed from the once inoculated log because I knew what they were and how they got there. Like I said, I am not one to hunt mushrooms in the woods without substantial knowledge or guidance. These mushrooms I knew. I had watched them being borne. So, we took the mushrooms and marveled at the beauty of their shape ad patterning.
2: Fledgling Turkey tail mushroom on log (Photo by Holly Broden) We washed them, and then because it was the only grinder I had, my son put them in a coffee grinder, and turned it on. Now, mushrooms have a distinct woodsy smell and such was the case with these ground beauties. What did surprise me, however, was the silky feel of the ground turkey tail mushrooms and the lightness and delicateness of the ground fungi. It was a tactile experience to say the least. I heated some water in the kettle and pulled out some tea bags (open ended bags that can be filled with a favorited tea) or in this case a favorite mushroom, folded the top over, and put a little staple to secure it.
3: After being ground
The ground mushrooms did well with the heat of the boiling water and retained much of the structure. I was glad because I really didn’t want to pull it out of my cup to see a mushy ball of mushroom. There are several articles out there on the benefits of mushrooms and specifically turkey tail tea, but that isn’t my goal here. I am not well versed in the medicinal properties of mushrooms, although I do believe there are many, but rather wanted to give you my take on trying mushroom tea for the first time.
Part of the art of drinking tea is to savor the aroma and one could certainly do that with turkey tail mushroom tea. The mushroom didn’t lose any of its strength in smell because it was ground and put in water. It retained it and I could absolutely still smell the mushroom. The first hot sip was very good. The tea was good tasting, but not great. So much so, that I actually finished the entire cup of tea and enjoyed it.
It was such a fun experience to take the picked mushroom and turn it into tea. I liked it enough, like I said, to repeat the process with my husband. His take on the tea was similar, although he found the smell much more “ode de mushroom” than I did, and a bit less palatable. Yet, it wasn’t enough to turn him off from the tea itself. One of the reasons why tea seems to be the favored way to consume turkey tail mushrooms is they are a bit chewy when eaten. As for me, for now I will stick to tea. Who knows, when I walked by that log and see a lovely turkey tail growing from it, I may try it just as it is or slightly sauteed. Who knows? I am in on the journey….