Guide to Harvesting Chaga How to Ensure a Sustainable Harvest
When harvesting Chaga always leave 1 to 2 inches behind so that the tree will remain protected and the chaga will regrow. Chaga mushroom can grow on the host tree for up to 20 years; if harvested properly you can harvest 3 to 5 times during it's lifespan.
What we know as 'Chaga' is NOT a fruiting body which many are mistaken. The Chaga and the host tree live together; extending the trees life so that the fungi can feed.
Improper harvesting of Chaga is a big concern. If all the Chaga is taken from the host tree, the tree will succumb to infection or disease and will die within a few years. The Chaga will not regrow and will never have the opportunity to fruit and reproduce.
How to Properly Harvest Chaga:
Take only Chaga from Living white or golden Birch trees. Never Dead trees - black Chaga is most likely contaminated with mycotoxins. Avoid taking chaga from trees that look similar to Birch - Aspen, Popular, Beech.
- Chaga often grows higher up on the tree so quite often one would need to climb up. Deer stands work great without harming the tree. Higher up the more potent the Chaga becomes.
- Do not collect chaga from fallen or dead trees
- Do not gather Chaga outgrowths that are near or fallen to the ground.
- Do Not harvest Moldy chaga or pieces littered with bugs or larvae are no good.
- Do not harvest chaga that is black both on the interior and exterior.
- Do not harvest chaga from trees growing on or immediately near contaminated lands, mills, hydro-cuts, industry etc.
- Chaga should be at least the size of a large soft ball or much larger. The bigger the better.
- You can use an axe or, large sharp knife or machete, hammer & chisel or battery operated reciprocating saw because it is really very difficult to separate the outgrowths from the trunk.
- Always leave 1-2“ of chaga on the tree, never dig all of it out it will kill the tree and the inner core deep within the tree has no medicine.
- Discard any bits of birch bark or parts of the tree on-site.
Drying and processing
- Leave the back outer crust – do not discard or file off.
- You can use an air compressor to blast away any bits of dirt, bark, needles etc.
- Chaga must be dried right away after harvest or put into a deep freezer for later drying and processing.
- Fresh chaga mushroom is easily exposed to mold; thus, is should not be dried in an area that is too damp, cold or poorly ventilated.
- One should not attempt to dry chaga more quickly in a hot oven; otherwise, it will lose most of its biologically active nutrients
- choose a dry, warm, well-ventilated place. As well, it is necessary to cut the fresh chaga into pieces that are no more 1-2 Inches and dry it until the pieces become hard and crumbly.
- A Commercial food dehydrator works great. Moisture meter readings should be 0 - 7%