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How to Harvest Chaga Mushroom

Latest Tea | April 6, 2020

The extraordinary benefits of Chaga mushrooms are no longer a mystery to modern civilization. If you live in the Northern hemisphere where the climate is colder, you are providential to catch a great resource of Chaga conks in the nearby forests. When it comes to Chaga mushroom hunting, people should follow guidelines for sustainable harvesting to maintain abundant fruiting and continued persistence of medicinal Chaga in the boreal woods.

The History of Chaga

Chaga is a parasitic fungus characterized by its blacktop crust and brown-orangey, spongy core. Chaga has a Latin origin - Inonotus, which means 'fibrous ear' and obliquus, which means 'oblique' (spores). It belongs to the Hymenochetaceae family which infects hardwood trees like birches, making them the hosts. The medicinal mushroom was named and discovered by Persoon in 1801 but has been around primitively in Eastern Europe since the 12th century. Chaga mushrooms have been used as a traditional herb in treating a variety of health disorders and maintaining wellness. From its historical record, a Ukraine prince has a lip tumor and had been cured with Chaga mushrooms.

Chaga: A Bird's Eye View

Chaga has a peculiar appearance compared to other mushroom equivalents. It grows from mycelium or sclerotium rather than its fruiting body. Chaga is distinguished by its black and crumbly covering that looks like a burnt charcoal and brown-orangey core substance. Chaga fungi infest almost exclusively in birch trees in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in boreal climates. Chaga takes time to grow and develop. It may take as long as 20 years for Chaga conks to fully mature! Thus, they are likely to be seen in bigger and older host trees.

Why Harvest Chaga

People have been hunting for Chaga mushrooms for years for good reasons – that is, to restore health and maintain wellness. For one, Chaga is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Second, Chaga is a potent antioxidant that helps treat cancer. And third, Chaga plays a significant role in immune surveillance.

Before Harvesting Chaga

The tools you may need when getting Chaga from its host tree rely upon the size of the conk. The average diameter of Chaga is between 10 and 20 centimeters depending on the maturity of the fungi. When packing your carry-on bag for Chaga hunting, consider bringing the following:

  • saw
  • hatchet or axe
  • sharp knife
  • a bag, a container or a towel to wrap the chaga

What is Sustainable Chaga Harvesting?

Chaga provides a lot of medicinal properties so it should be respected and harvested that will maintain its existence for the many other people to benefit. Remember to only take what you need and what you want. Find out what sustainable and responsible Chaga harvesting means:

  • Don't harvest immature Chaga. It takes about 20 years for Chaga mushrooms to be considered as fully mature. By this time, they are ready to be collected and apt for use. Gathering them immaturely does not provide you the exhaustive medicinal benefits of the fungus.
  • Only get what you need. Harvest a small amount or what you need. In this manner, we can maintain the conk in the tree to flourish. Leave about 20% of the fungi in the tree or at least a thickness of your hand. This permits the sclerotium to grow back and makes the tree survive.
  • Examine the conk before harvesting. Scan the Chaga before taking it off from the tree, and explore which part of it is easier to cuff. The lower lump is easier to remove.
  • Do not take down the whole tree to get Chaga. Only cut the outside surface. Birch trees play a role in the development of Chaga. They get some of the bioactive components particularly betulin and betulinic acid from the hosts themselves. When the host tree dies, so does the Chaga.
  • Do not overharvest Chaga during summer. The best time to collect Chaga is during fall or winter where the temperature is below 5 C. Wait until the sap starts running. The sap is the fluid found in Chaga that contains dissolved mineral salts and nutrients.

After Harvesting Chaga Mushrooms

Fresh from harvest, Chaga is heavyweight because it is abundant in moisture. Thus, it is advised to dry the conk first before using it. Chaga is commonly left for days in a dry storage place. However, some people put Chaga chunks near the oven, dehydrator, or place it near a sunny window to speed up the drying process. However, when the conk is too dry, it can be rock hard and quite arduous to deal with. In this manner, you may use a sharp knife to shave off the conk rather than knocking them with a hammer. Smaller pieces are easier to dry. Alternatively, you can use a blender or coffee grinder to produce powdered form Chaga.


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