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When To Harvest Turkey Tail Mushrooms: Timing & Where To Look

When To Harvest Turkey Tail Mushrooms: Timing & Where To Look

Turkey tail mushrooms are highly coveted among mushroom enthusiasts, not only for their attractive appearance and delightful assortment of colors, but also for their flavorful taste.

When do you harvest turkey tail mushrooms? The best time to harvest turkey tail mushrooms is when they’re still growing. Young mushrooms that are one to two months old are good for harvesting. Autumn is an ideal time for foraging. Check that the underside of the mushroom is white, which is a sign of good health. 

If you’re a fan of foraging turkey tail mushrooms but don’t know where to look or when to harvest those colorful mushrooms, this guide is for you.

Harvesting Turkey Tail Mushrooms – What To Know

Turkey tail mushrooms might look healthy and ready for picking when they’re actually neither of those things. The mushrooms go bad rather quickly and degrade fast even when they’re still growing in the soil.

It takes some experience to first identify a turkey tail and tell a good mushroom from one that’s gone bad.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Identification

Turkey tail mushrooms are not the only mushrooms that have these exact patterns and colors.

To tell the difference between a real turkey tail and a false turkey tail, look at the surface of the mushroom under sunlight. If you see glistening fuzz covering the surface, then you’re looking at the real turkey tail. Look-alikes have no such fuzz on the surface.

Another tell-tale sign will be found on the underside of the mushroom. Turkey tail holds its spores in tubes on the underside. Look for pores at a rate of three to eiight pores every millimeter.

That’s pretty small, but other mushrooms have much larger pores, and many false turkey tails have smooth undersides.

Large turkey tail mushrooms on log

White Turkey Tail Mushroom

White turkey tail mushroom is not actually a turkey tail at all. It’s a different species called hairy bracket fungus. It has the same shape and patterns as the turkey tail minus the various colors.

Hairy bracket fungus has a uniform white top, so it’s easy to differentiate it from the real turkey tail.

Old Turkey Tail Mushroom

That’s another turkey tail look-alike, and it’s actually quite similar to the real turkey tail and even has the same color patterns on the surface, but underneath, it’s a different story.

The false turkey tail has tannish, reddish, or brownish color unlike the real turkey tail with its white underside, leading many to mistake it for an older turkey tail.

Where Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Grow? 

Turkey tail mushrooms grow everywhere around the world. They’re can be found all year round in many places.

They prefer moisture, so you’ll find them on tree stumps, hardwood trunks, and even conifers. Sometimes they’ll grow near streams as long as the conditions are favorable.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Look-Alikes

Many mushrooms have similar shapes and even colors as the turkey tail mushroom. You’ll need to take a closer look at the surface of the mushroom and its underside to determine if you’re looking at a real turkey tail.

Some look-alikes include Stereum ostrea or false turkey tail, which has the same rings of colors but a smooth underside.

Trametes are another species of fungus with pores on the underside, but these pores are large compared to the tiny pores of a turkey tail.

Of course, there is also hairy bracket fungus, which has the same rings as turkey tail, but they come in white.

Turkey Tail Spore Print

The spore print of turkey tail mushrooms is another way to identify the real turkey tail.

Since the fungus holds its spores in tubes on the underside, that’s your way of telling a real turkey tail from an imposter.

The pores of the turkey tail are tiny, and three to eight of them cover an area of a square millimeter.

How Do You Know When Turkey Tail Is Ready To Harvest?

The first thing to look for in a turkey tail mushroom is that it’s healthy. You can identify this by the bright ring colors and the white underside.

If the underside is not white but reddish, tannish, or brownish, then the mushroom is old and no longer edible. 

Young mushrooms between 1 and 2 months old have bright colors and a white underside. These are the mushrooms that should be harvested. Just check to be sure there are no bugs lurking anywhere.

How Can You Tell if a Turkey Tail Mushroom Is Edible?

Besides its distinguishing color rings, an edible mushroom is thin and flexible. As the mushroom gets older, it gains girth and loses its flexibility.

Bend the mushroom with your fingers to test its tenderness. If it bends easily, then it’s young and edible.

Also look for a bright white outer ring. This is a sign of freshness.

When To Harvest Turkey Tail Mushrooms

You should start harvesting turkey tail mushrooms when they’re between 1 and 2 months old. These ubiquitous mushrooms are available all year round, but only the young ones are edible.

Turkey Tail vs. False Turkey Tail

The difference between a real turkey tail and a false turkey tail is as clear as the difference between night and day.

The three distinguishing features are the rings of color, the top surface, and the underside.

Real turkey tail has rings on the top with contrasting colors. False turkey tails might have rings, but they will have monochrome hues. 

True turkey tail mushrooms have tiny fuzz covering their surface. You’ll need to see the fuzz in the right light where it glistens. False turkey tails have smooth surfaces.

The last distinguishing feature is the pores on the underside. Real turkey tails keep their spores in tubes. The pores are tiny. False turkey tail either has a smooth underside or large pores.

True turkey tail vs. false turkey tail

Can You Eat Turkey Tail Mushrooms Raw?

Turkey tail mushrooms are not really to be eaten either raw or cooked. They’re chewy and tough.

The best way to use them in the kitchen is to dry the mushrooms and grind them into powder. That’s how you can get all the flavors without all the chewing.

What Does Turkey Tail Mushroom Taste Like?

Unlike many less-impressive-looking mushrooms, turkey tail has a mild, earthy, and slightly bitter taste. It’s ideal for marinades, sauces, teas, and soups.

How To Prepare Turkey Tail Mushrooms

You can prepare turkey tail mushrooms by drying them out and then grinding them in a food processor to turn them into powder. The other way is to boil the mushrooms to make tea.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Recipe

If you like turkey tail mushroom tea, this recipe has many health benefits and a pleasant taste.

  • Wash the turkey tail mushrooms, and cut them into small pieces.
  • Add the mushrooms to a pot of boiling water.
  • Lower the heat, and let the mushrooms simmer for an hour.
  • Take the pot off the stove, and let it cool down.
  • Strain the mushroom tea, and add half a teaspoon of turmeric and honey for taste.
  • Serve warm.

How To Dry Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Wash the turkey tail mushrooms under running water to remove dust and debris. Dry the clean mushrooms on paper towels, and place them in a basket.

Spread the mushrooms out, and keep them in a well-ventilated place. The mushrooms will dry out within two to three days.

Related Questions:

Is False Turkey Tail Poisonous?

False turkey tail mushrooms are not poisonous, but they don’t taste good either.

Can You Harvest Turkey Tail Mushrooms in the Winter?

Turkey tail mushrooms are available all year round. You can harvest them in the winter as long as they’re one to two months old and look healthy, thin, fresh, and tender.


Turkey tail mushrooms don’t have the same taste as shitake, but their earthy tones and slight bitterness make them a great addition to marinades, sauces, and tea. Harvest the young mushrooms all year round.