The Mushroom Files: Fun(gi) and Interesting Facts about…..

Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis betulina)

We’ve all seen this rather plain looking fungi in our woodland and have probably thought “that’s a nice bracket fungus”. But have you ever thought about wat this mushroom can actually do?

We have always believed that this was an edible fungus, and we weren’t wrong, but our own research has shown us that whilst it is edible, it isn’t necessarily palatable. We undertook a test last weekend (something you should never do unless trained and experienced) and found that once harvested, the mushroom was really hard to slice and was extremely bitter to taste (frying it with oil and garlic did not improve its flavour). However, we wanted to persevere with ways we could reap the benefits of what turns out to be a marvellously good for you fungi.

Health Benefits

Our research has provided us with an extensive list of incredible health benefits including:

  • Natural Plaster which is antiseptic, antifungal (as it doesn’t like sharing its habitat with other mushrooms) and microporous
  • An antiseptic to clean wounds
  • A general tonic to help the immune system
  • It has extensive antiviral properties
  • It is currently being used in research to help with the reduction of tumours as the betulenic acid and other chemicals found in the fungi have been shown to cause apoptosis, the destruction of cancer cells whilst not affecting any healthy cells.
  • It is anti-inflammatory and can help with joint pain or other inflammatory conditions.

Ways you can get the benefits

Given that it is not a pleasant mushroom to eat, it is most often taken as a tea. Mushrooms are harvested, dried and powdered and then used as a daily infusion by many people all over the world. The powdered form can also be used as a flavouring in other food, but be mindful that too much could make a dish bitter.

Identifying Birch Polypore

A fully grown Birch Polypore is a fleshy fungus that is round or hoof-shaped, with a rounded edge and leathery look. It is a milky coffee-colour on top, and has white pores underneath.

It starts as a milk white colour and changes as it grows to the milky-coffee colour of a fully mature fungus. You will find them growing out of the trunks of dead Birch trees, it is important to remember that the tree must be dead for the fungus to grow and that if you harvest a Birch Polypore, you will not be harming the tree as extensive decay will have already taken over the wood.

If you touch the fungus, it will feel rubbery but firm and smooth on the top. The underside will feel more spongey and damp as this is where the pores of the mushroom are.

We’ll be bringing you more Mushroom Files facts soon, but in the mean time, get out and look around for the mushrooms that grown near you. And don’t forget, they don’t always grow on the ground.

**Warning** Wild Minds does not encourage the picking, harvesting or tasting of wild mushrooms. We simply want you to understand what is around you and what they are capable of. If you would like to be able to forage for wild mushrooms, please complete a foraging course with a reputable provider.

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