Birch Polypore – Medicinal Wild Mushroom

Birch Polypore a.k.a. Razor Strop

LATIN NAME: Piptoporus betulinus

COMMON NAMES: Birch Polypore, Birch Bracket, or Razor Strop

ECOLOGY: Birch Polypore is the most common polyporous racket fungi. Growing best in cold climates, it can be found almost exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere anywhere you find birch trees. While it grows mostly on dead birch trees, logs or branches, you can sometimes find them on living trees.


Birch Polypore printBirch polypore has a rather nice mushroomy smell although the taste is very bitter.

Caps can range from 5 cm to almost a foot long starting out as little white bumps, turning into soft but rubbery bulbous protrusions. As they grow older, they become flat, kidney-shaped and tough.

The upper skin tends to be soft, smooth and white when young. As it ages, the skin remains smooth but it becomes  browner. As the skin of the cap reaches the pore surface, you’ll notice that there tends to be a slight rim. Eventually the skin will crack and peel away from the flesh.

The flesh itself is white while the pore surface begins as white but changes to a grayish-brown as it ages.

Like it’s name suggests, the birch polypore doesn’t have gills. Instead, it has hundreds of tubes with tiny pores showing on it’s underside. The pore surface will be white, turning to grey and eventually black. The spore print is also white.

There is often no visible stem, however if there is one it will be stubby and short.

SMELL:  Fresh and mushroomy

TASTE:  Bitter


  • immune boosting,
  • anti-parasitic,
  • anti-septic,
  • anti-viral,
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-bacterial,
  • anti-styptic,
  • anti-tumorous,
  • anti-parasitic.



An annual fungi, the lifespan of birch polypore can reach up to a little over a year and you can easily find young specimens growing late into the fall.

If you plan on eating the mushrooms, you should harvest them when they are very young, round and tender. As they grow bigger, Birch Polypore becomes so tough that they can only be used for teas and tinctures.

mushroom knifeWhen young, they tend to be more  rubbery making it necessary to cut the stems with a sharp knife to prevent the fruit from going squishy. As they grow older and firmer, you can usually snap them off by hand.

When harvesting older specimens, make sure that the porous underside is nice, clean and white or ivory coloured. You also want to avoid specimens that have a lot of bugs in them. The porous surface should be nice and clean looking.


While young specimens are supposed to be edible, I tend to use a hot water extraction method.

mushroom brushAfter harvesting, you can clean and prepare the mushrooms right away or let them sit pore-side up in the sun for a day to boost their vitamin D content.

Remove the dirt off with a mushroom brush or vegetable scrubber and then slice the polypore into thin strips. At this point, you can use the mushrooms right away or dry them for later use.

If weather permits, continue to dry the mushrooms in the sun until they lose their pliability and snap easily when bent.

excalibur flippedAnother option is to dehydrate the slivers of mushrooms. Use the lowest setting and dry until they break when bent. After letting them air out a bit to remove any possibility for condensation build-up, store the dehydrated mushroom slivers in glass jars or another airtight container.Dehydrated mushrooms can be stored almost indefinitely.


Making mushroom tea is a good way to extract the flavour and nutrients from tough, woody or rubbery mushrooms like birch polypore, turkey tail, chaga and other fungi that are too tough or leathery to eat.

Once the mushrooms have been cleaned and prepared, you’ll want to simmer them in hot water to release the medicinal properties. Bring water to a boil and then reduce head to a simmer before adding your birch polypore.

While many advise letting the mushroom simmer for at least an hour, I recommend a maximum of 15 to 20 minutes to avoid having the tea become too bitter. Drink your birch polypore tea right away or save it for later use.

Birch polypore tea can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen into ice cubes.  Add the liquid or ice cubes to soup or stews to enhance the medicinal value of your meals while masking the bitter flavour.

Another great idea is to add the frozen tea to fruit smoothies. Yum!


  • Sharpen Blades: Use the inner flesh of birch polypore to sharpen knives the same way you would use a sharpening stone (hence the name “Razor Strop”).
  • Field Plaster: Cut a strip off the underside and use it as a makeshift bandaid or self-adhesive antiseptic field plaster.
  • Tinder: Use dried out slivers as tinder.


otziWhile it’s been used for thousands of years, birch polypore shot to fame when it was found along with the body of ‘Ötzi’, a 5300 year old mummy discovered by two German tourists hiking in the Alps between the borders of Austria and Italy. It’s believed that Ötzi – who was suffering from Lyme disease – might have used the mushrooms to help clear parasitic worms from the stomach and the digestive system. 

*Click here to learn more about Ötzi the Iceman!

Ötzi the Iceman

otziOkay, so this post has very little to do with food. But it does have to do with travel, super cool things, and medicinal mushrooms so I guess it fits the bill!

While I would love to say that I had the chance to see Ötzi in person, I only leaned about him by chance after returning home to Canada while researching local wild mushrooms. It’s a darned shame, I know! 

Anyway, for those of you visiting Italy in the near future make sure to visit the Ötzi the Iceman exhibit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

Who the heck is Ötzi the Iceman?

Ötzi  is a well-preserved glacier mummy who lived during the Copper Age sometime between 3359 and 3105 BCE.

Mummy Otzi the icemanÖtzi’s body was discovered accidentally by German hikers along the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley glacier in September 1991. Yikes! What would you do if you stumbled across a 5,300-year-old corpse?

The area where Ötzi was found is known as the Ötztal Alps, which was how the Iceman got his name. However, Ötzi also goes by many other names! Because the Ötztal Alps are located near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch along the border between Austria and Italy, Ötzi is also known as: 

  • the Similaun Man,
  • Man from Hauslabjoch,
  • the Tyrolean Iceman,
  • Homo tyrolensis,
  • Frozen Fritz, or
  • the Hauslabjoch mummy.

What’s so cool about Ötzi?

Aside from being Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy… Wait! What am I talking about? He’s a naturally occurring glacial mummy! How freakin’ cool is that??? Okay, okay but there’s more!

otzi birch

Because Ötzi’s belongings were excellently preserved along with him in the glacier, scientist were able to learn a truckload of new things about how people lived during the Copper Age.

Among Ötzi’s possessions were two pieces of birch polypore (birch fungus) threaded onto hide strips. Since the fungus has a long history of being used for it’s medicinal benefits, it’s assumed that  Ötzi  might have been using it as a sort of ancient Neolithic ‘First Aid Kit’ to combat lyme disease which is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks.

Click to learn more about the Iceman’s Equipment!

How did Ötzi die?

Poor Ötzi experienced a grizzly death at the hands of a bowman. That’s right, those German tourists hiking around the Alps happened across a 5300 year old homicide!

What led to Ötzi’s murder remains unclear but scientists are busy tying to solve the mystery:

Curious facts about Ötzi the Iceman

1. The Iceman has living relatives. In fact, research has indicated that Ötzi has at least 19 genetic relatives living in Austria’s Tyrol region;

2. Ötzi wasn’t on his game. After giving the Iceman a full-body health check-up, scientists discovered that Ötzi suffered from worn joints, hardened arteries, gallstones, a nasty growth on his little toe (possibly caused by frostbite), he was lactose intolerant and probably Lyme disease;

3. For someone with so many living relatives thousands of years later, researchers suspect that Ötzi was infertile. He also had a gap between his two front teeth, lacked both wisdom teeth and was missing a 12th pair of ribs.

4. The Iceman had tats!  Numbering over 50 in total, Ötzi’s remains were covered from head to foot in Copper Age tattoos. Unlike modern-age tattoos, Ötzi’s were made by making fine cuts in the skin and then rubbing in charcoal. The result was a series of lines and crosses mostly located on parts of the body that are prone to injury or pain, such as the joints and along the back.

5. Ötzi the Iceman’s stomach contents included 30 different types of pollen. According to scientists, Ötzi  ate his final meal – grains and meat from an ibex (a species of nimble-footed wild goat) – just a few short hours before his grizzly death.

Want to see Ötzi the Iceman in person?

Visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy where Ötzi and his artifacts have been exhibited since 1998.