When formulating the recipe of the chaga rootbeer elixir many moons ago, one thing that was my absolute obsession was to move away people away from the model of pill-popping and to have them enter the era of alchemy, where everyone takes creation into their own hands.
This was one of the biggest advances in my own journey of evolving my health and life, when I stopped taking so many nutritional supplements, and got deeply into eating/drinking my nutrition.
Your body absorbs liquid and food forms of nutritional medicine far easier then poppin pills and supplements because it's a form of nutrition that's the base-level of what our bodies are built for.
By mixing and combining ingredients together to create your own elixirs, tonics, culinary meals, smoothies, you add an element that is uniquely your own into the end result. You add the essence of yourself, your preferences and your own magic.
When looking to identify Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus), you always want to look for the gold. That softer, squishy yellow/orange core of Chaga contains "fungal lanostances" and also helps to differentiate it from it's closest potential look-alike, the evil "black knot fungus".
One of the most important conversations we have at events, markets, restaurants, seminars, in stores and online with you fellow shroomies is the conversation aroundsustainable foraging of mushrooms.
This is a topic we actually light up from because it encompasses our deep love of the forest and sharing the adventures of being in the wilderness mushroom hunting.
We freaking love to hear the stories of you finding and recognized Chaga, Reishi, Turkey Tail or any other wild mushrooms on your nature hikes and we’re proud of you for acknowledging it’s powerful medicine.
The question that often surfaces next, especially when it comes toChaga Mushroom hunting is how to properly harvest the mushroom from the tree.
We'd like to share a couple thoughts with you on this process so you can harvest enough to supply yourself the valuable medicine to supercharge your life WHILE honoring the forest and protecting the trees.
Here are 3 things to know when harvesting Chaga Mushrooms.
1. Forge a connection with the Chaga trees
When you find a wild Chaga Mushroom, the most ideal situation is to that the birch tree is vibrant and alive. You can usually tell by the colour of the tree and the way it stands. Two common birch trees in Ontario are the yellow birch and the vibrant white birch. The vibrancy of colour of the tree will depict it’s aliveness.
You can also observe from its leaves whether it's alive or not depending on if there are leaves on the upper branches.
This is NOT to say that Chaga Mushrooms found on a downed or "dead" tree are not benefitial, it's just to say that there has been discovered more nutrients and living enzymes in Chaga Mushrooms found on living trees.
Either way, the tree deserves the respect it is due for harboring such a loyal, magical mushroom.
Now before harvesting, become present with the tree.
Yes, we get spiritual around here (didn’t you know we preform energy inoculating rituals with each brew of thechaga mushroom rootbeer elixir syrup?) and we get extra with it out in the woods. Do what ever you feel called to do to feel the energy of the tree and be with it for a few minutes before harvesting the Chaga.
Our favourite is to hug, kiss and talk loving, passionate words to the tree.
You may feel like you’ll be sent to a mental institution if anyone caught you doing this but trust us, it works and YOU WILL FEEL "IT" (the force, source or magic) as you do so.
This is a hard and fast rule we ALWAYS follow before every single Chaga mushroom we harvest.
2. Only harvest small amounts of Chaga per living birch tree.
First off, I want to say that improper harvesting is a huge concern in the foraging community right now.
Many big-dollar companies are irresponsibly bludgeoning the trees in the forest to harvest Chaga and selfishly taking the entire piece of Chaga they find; leaving the once thriving and beautiful birch to die.
This puts blood in our mouths and is a major reason why we post our videos and pictures to our Instagram account and YouTube channel educating people how to harvest properly. We never advise people to make a purchase of Chaga pieces from Amazon or other online retailers UNLESS the company is fully transparent.
To us that means, putting your mouth where your words are. Let's actually see some founders or company owners in the woods showing how they condone the harvesting of the mushrooms they are harvesting.
Many people are all talk and no action. To write that you offer "sustainable or lovingly harvested mushrooms" on your package doesn't mean shit. Let's see it for ourselves before we can blindly believe it.
A simple online search of "where to buy Chaga mushroom" will reveal countless companies, most of which are shady ________ (you fill in the blank) taking advantage of this new trending superfood and hiding behind computer screens marking up Chaga mushrooms they bought cheaply from China or other places in bulk with zero concern of how it was harvested.
Trust me, we get messages on the daily from scuzzy human beings trying to sell us bulk Chaga and cash in on the trend. We click the spam button faster then you can say "where's your heart mother-______?".
Chaga is a healing medicine for the trees and for the forest and deserves respect.
We always invite anyone who offers Chaga to step up to the plate and prove their sustainable. It's a really important issue to us and we will shout it from the rooftops to protect this magic of the wilderness.
The betulinic acid Chaga produces is as healing for the trees as it is for us and our immune system + liver. This betulinic acid keeps the trees alive, radiant, colorful and assists in continuing to produce more mushrooms and other healing medicines for the wild.
If you chop the whole chaga off, especially a small baby growing piece, you’ve just destroyed the tree and the tree will begin a death cycle without its love, Chaga mushroom to protect it.
Preserve the pristine of the trees, and only harvest 50% or less from the tree. Ideally, harvest only from a large chaga mushroom that would look roughly 15 years aged.
The exception to the rule is if you've found the Chaga mushroom on a decaying tree that is no longer "alive" (really it is still alive, even when there are no more leaves, but it's fading out). These are Chaga mushroom pieces you can have confidence in taking the entirety of it because it will no longer serve a benefit to it's host tree.
You may as well extract it fully to bring the hard earned medicine to the people.
A sustainability practice we always engage in when picking these Chagas are to throw some of the harvest back to the woods to proliferate the continued growth of the mushroom else where in the forest.
Check out this infamous chaga hunting video below in which we show you what we mean by harvesting a small portion of the mushroom and from which point to extract the mushroom from (the outer edges).
BUT don't forget to come back here and read the 3rd point because it's crucial ;)
3. Use the proper tools when harvesting Chaga.
I once saw a video of a guy knocking down a chaga with his foot. I almost blacked out from how angry it made me. There are even these fuckers that think it's okay to launch a knife into the tree to pull every last ounce of the Chaga mushroom out.
Once again, respect the tree.
Use proper tools like a hatchet to get precise pieces chopped. Refer back to the video posted above to see what we personally use.
Funny side note, the hatchet was super dull in that mushroom harvest. Ideally you want a sharp hatchet.
We are also asked regularly about using a saw or knife. Nope. Don't go there. The saw is awkward to walk with and most won't hold up well against Chaga, and a knife is as cruel as going to marine-land to watch caged dolphins (#sorrynotsorry, we couldn't resist).
Chaga harvesting practices are crucial to maintain the integrity and future of this beautiful medicinal mushroom. The beauty of harvesting small amounts at a time is that this helps the chaga to grow larger and sustain life on the tree.
Just 3 small chunks of chaga can easily last you months of use. Remember, you can re-use the mushroom in hot water until the water turns clear! This at times can result in up to 10+ brews!
After that, we suggest doing an alcohol extraction with the Chaga to pull its fat/alcohol soluable elements (coming in a future newsletter), planting the used pieces by a young birch tree/in your garden (contains soil rejuvenating properties) or keep them as a mantle piece. ;)
We post daily our mushroom hunting adventures in the Canadian Wilderness for the Chaga mushrooms in your elixirs, as well as our 'shroom hustling' expeditions & superfood indulgences out in the West coast of California.