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Polypore Mushrooms

Brewing Polypore "Root Beer"

Ok, we're talking serious spring fever here! Snow's melting, sap's flowing and sun is SHINING!!!!! What an awesome day to be ALIVE!!!!

Now, when the sun is shining, the last thing I feel like doing is drinking hot tea. It's now time for sparkling, throat tickling SODA! But I still love my shrooms and they still love me, and the awesome thing is that we have discovered a wonderful way to enjoy each other in intimacy, while keeping it cool. Sorry, sun's getting to me. Happy

OK, couldn't be more simple. I have a stockpot full of polypores that I brew continuously, taking from as needed. Every couple of days, I strain out a gallon and add it to approximately and on the generous side of 1/4 c. molasses and 3/4 c. honey with a tsp of ginger powder. I leave some air space as shown in the jar on the right, and brew until it's starting to look fizzy as shown on the left, unless I get impatient and drink some early. I never measure such things as molasses and honey because they're a terrible mess to put into measuring cups and you really can't go wrong. Adjust it as you go along, it's very forgiving and will comply to your wishes. Sometimes I add a little of a previous batch to the next batch… seems like it might help speed things up. Takes about 4-5 days to start to get fizzy. That's why I always keep another jar in the queue. Don't tell your family about it or you'll have to make bucketsful. Winking Plastic lids are nice because they allow fizz to build up without exploding… don't try this with a tight fitting lid and definitely keep a very close eye on it.

Check out my Homemade Soda Recipes article for more soda ideas.


Polypore Mushrooms

Restarting the Home 'n Stead Blog! (and FORUM!!)

The purpose of this blog is to share some of our most exciting, freeing discoveries within the natural world. I'm going to start with this one, because this is such a great example of how something can come along out of "nowhere" that is so mind-blowingly awesome! Just when you thought you had a pretty good idea of what existed in your backyard, who could've imagined that there lies hidden a delicious, even superior tasting FREE coffee substitute that is alkalinizing rather than acidifying, and is THE superfood of the year, or maybe the era, or maybe of all of history! Why isn't EVERYONE talking about this? A FREE, simple to use, DELICIOUS, life giving COFFEE SUBSTITUTE that has many potentially LIFE-SAVING uses and might be right in your own back yard, or down the road from you, hanging on old or dying trees?

Survival Kits Growing on Trees

Tripping Over Mushrooms

Not like you might be thinking, but only in the sense that we had bags and boxes full in our hallway after discovering these beyond amazing gifts, and how much fun it was to hunt for them. When I set out to find me an "elusive chaga" this summer, I had no idea that I was about to embark on one of the most exciting and fulfilling treks of my life.

I had learned that chaga was an epic anti-oxidant, and was anti-cancer, ant-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and even anti-fungal. It is adaptogenic, which means that it stimulates the immune system only specifically where this stimulation is needed, so doesn't cause the strong reactions that other immune boosters can cause in some people. I expected to find something that I might just be able to tolerate, that would be "good for me." What I didn't expect was to learn that not only chaga, but virtually all the other tree growing polypores (gill less mushrooms) can be made into health giving, delicious teas BESIDES having a variety of other life-saving uses.

Some Basic Mushroom Lingo

First, a quick primer on mushroom lingo. A polypore mushroom is a mushroom that doesn't have gills… when you look at it from the bottom side, it appears smooth at first, and, on closer inspection, tiny little tubular pores are noticed. It's very important to positively identify your mushrooms! You might as well learn right up front that there are a lot of different common names for particular polypores, and some sources will call one mushroom a certain name and another will call a different mushroom that name. For instance, chaga is sometimes called the tinder conk, but then some sources are referring to the hoof conk when they say "tinder conk." And then there's the "false tinder conk," which sometimes refers to the aspen conk and other times to the hoof conk (which is sometimes called the birch polypore). You get the idea… mycology is a work in progress. Once you get your positive identifications, then you can play with your pet names any way you like. We decided that the aspen conks looked like "wampagoodusses" and the word was just so much fun that it stuck. (At the bottom of this article, I list the latin names along with the common names for reference.)

Chaga is actually different than the other polypores in that it is actually not the fruit body that is consumed, but rather the sclerotium, similar to what would be an underground root, only this one grows on trees. A chaga looks like a burl, or a burnt mass, usually 10-15 ft. up on the tree. It needs to be removed with a hatchet, and the surface that meets the tree is golden and can be easily ground. Both the black and the golden parts have health-giving properties.

Some Uses of Chaga and Other Polypore Mushrooms


A fantastic tasting coffee/tea substitute… it's not even fair to call it a substitute, since I think that black tea and coffee must have been a substitute for chaga/polypore tea… mushroom tea is far superior, to my taste, and it is highly alkaline. It feels wonderful in my stomach, and I can drink it all day. It greatly compliments cheesecake or a piece of chocolate. It warms my insides on a chilly day, and makes me feel like I'm really getting something worthwhile, almost like I could easily survive on this tea if I had to. And no, this tea doesn't have the slightest bit of "mushroom-y-ness," as one might expect. Chaga by itself is not bitter, and actually has a vanillin/chocolate/coffee-esque flavor of its own. The other polypores have more flavor, and more bitterness, and some do have a hint of mushroomy-ness. Some of us prefer the bitter polypores combined with the chaga and others prefer their chaga tea plain. Some like their tea with honey and cream, and some enjoy a bit of peppermint or cinnamon added.

Collecting Mushrooms is
a Family Effort Enjoyed by All Ages!!
That's a red-banded polypore and we're bound and determined to bring it home!

Below are sone fall gatherings…
turkey tails, both kinds of birch polypores (we call the one on the back of the tree the hoof conk) and a reishi (varnish conk).
Turkey Tails in FallBirch Polypore and Hoof ConkIMG_1049

My mushroom tea mixture includes the red banded polypore, turkey tails, varnish conk (reishi), birch polypore, artist's conk, aspen conk, hoof conk, chaga and gilled polypores. These are all commonly found in the western UP, except for the red banded polypores and varnish conks, that favor the old growth forest up in the Porcupine Mountains. You can make a tea out of any or all of these. The turkey tails are the easiest to find, the most abundant and actually have the most documented health benefits.


If you're a kombucha lover, or would like to try it, you might try making it with chaga or polypore tea instead of black tea. If you're a home brewer, you may try replacing your hops with a little chaga.. "The Fungal Pharmacy" suggests 2 heaping tablespoons of ground chaga to a five-gallon wort in place of hops. It's also a great idea to add some polypores to just about anything that you're cooking up. For example, I always add some turkey tails to my rice, stews and soups (just remember to take them out before serving, they're a bit chewy), and I love to put a chunk of chaga in my large canning projects, like tomato sauce. Because they inhibit bad bacteria and molds and have been known to speed fermentation, we add them to homemade vinegars and wines. We also add polypores to our EM brews that me make on our farm and for our personal consumption, because the spores will multiply in a culture and have similar, sometimes even better, health benefits as the whole mushroom. You may find, as we do, that these ferments can improve the quality of health in your animals and in your family, and that they can give your gardens some new vitality.

Soaps and Salves

We also use strong teas (called extracts) and ferments in our soap and in salves. We think we've now got the best soap recipe ever, combining EM's with mushrooms, which we will be offering for sale from our shop sometime in the near future. This is the natural hand sanitizer that so many have been searching for, and this one noticeably softens and heals skin.

Supplements for the Homestead - Animals and Gardens

After a few weeks of brewing tea with the combination of mushrooms, I crumble/cut up the remains and add them to my bokashi (a type of silage) that gets fed to the cows. They could be added to homemade dog food, or even people food if desired (chaga powders well and combines in most foods without being noticed). If nothing else, they will make fantastic garden amendments.

Miscellaneous Household Uses

The spent polypore mushrooms can also be used for oil candle wicks (see below), or blended with water and then dried to a paper/felt like material. This pulp could have some potential use in homemade plasters. The polypores can also be pounded into amadous (a leather like cloth), which has uses such as drying flies used in fishing, has been used for making hats and some clothing and can even enhance smoking materials. It burns like a punk, with a nice, incense like fragrance. A friend swears that this smoke has anti-mold properties, so if you have a mold problem, you may want to give it a try. Some Indians used the smoke for sore throats. Polypores are also used to make natural dyes of a variety of colors.


Not just for tea, tree polypores and chagas serve as a tasty and nutritious, easily accessible wild food.. it's best to grind the soft golden inside portion of the chaga with a mortar and pestle (reportedly, to preserve the polysaccharide bonds which are broken when blended with blades), and then add it to raw cookies, cakes, crusts, crumbles or wherever feels good. It has a mild, cocoa like flavor that goes great along with chocolate and nuts. The other polypores can be nibbled on when they're soft, or ground into a powder and added to foods. These are more bitter than the chaga, start slow.

A Wick that Never Burns

My Homemade Conk
e polypore mushrooms can be used as a wick that never burns!! We have done experimenting in the past with burning various fats in homemade oil candles, and the most difficult aspect was creating the perfect wick. Here all along, nature had already created the perfect wick and it was dangling throughout the forest, just waiting to be picked up. The pore surfaces of the polypore mushrooms easily wick up oils as thick as bear fat and lard without ever burning themselves (as long as the oil doesn't get used up). The wick can be as large as desired, creating a corresponding flame size. A small wick doesn't smoke at all, and there's no odor as there was with every other kind of wick that we've tried. A simple burner or candle can be made completely from the woods, with some oil in a carved out rock, or in a carved out mushroom itself. I made a candle from a clay pot that I made from our own clay and fired in a sawdust pit , filled with a little bear fat and a piece of a hoof conk. These lamps are much safer than kerosene, as they don't burst into flames if spilled… as soon as the wick is tipped it goes out.

Fire Starting

Some polypores and Chagas are commonly known as "tinder conks," due to their superior fire starting and fire keeping potential. Some also create white rot in logs, which is highly flammable and can save the day when a fire needs to get started on a rainy day. The hoof conks were traditionally used as storage containers for taking tinders from one camp to the next.

Medicine Cabinet

Besides being used internally for so many diseases, polypores can also be used as bandages that bind wounds, facilitate quick healing AND provide an antibiotic effect.


While the polypores do most of their growing in the spring and summer, you can harvest them any time of the year. It's best, however, to lay them in the sun for a few days, bottom side up, to absorb the Vitamin D.* They actually will do that for you, storing it up and giving it back to you when you drink the tea.

Further Information

If you're as interested in the health benefits of polypores and other mushrooms as I am, you may also love the book "The Fungal Pharmacy." It's incredible how much research throughout the world has proven a myriad of health benefits of mushrooms, and this book is chock full of it! I also love Paul Stamets' "Mycellium Running," which I credit for igniting the mushroom fire in me. Here he is wearing his mushroom hat.

Here is the list of polypores that we've found here in the UP and use regularly:

Chaga -Inonotus obliquus- on birch
Birch Polypore
-Piptoporus betulinus- on dead standing or freshly fallen birch
Hoof Fungus -
Fomes Fomentarius- found on dead standing or fallen birch
Turkey Tail -
Trametes Versicolor - found on fallen logs and stumps, bleached white when old, but with radial shading, coloring is bright when fresh
Artist's Conk -
Ganoderma applanatum - found on hardwoods
Red Banded Polypore -Fomitopsis pinicola- on dead hardwoods, conifers, aspen and birch in northern conifer forests, reddish orange band
Aspen Conk
- Phellinus tremulae - on large aspen, very anti-fungal!
Gilled Polypore
-Lenzites Betulina- found on fallen logs and stumps, not as common as turkey tails, gills or large pore surfaces on the bottom, thin, white, roundish
Reishi/varnish conk -
Ganoderma tsugae - found on hemlock

A few interesting links:

Using Mushrooms as a Pet Supplement
Collecting Chaga (many pics)
Primitive Camp Lamp with red-banded polypore
Birch Polypore Fungus as a Razor Strop or Bandaid
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Chaga for Lyme's Disease
Chaga Recipes
*Drying Mushrooms in the Sun for Vitamin D

You're welcome to join our forum if you'd like to further discuss mushrooms or any other topics related to living in harmony with creation.