Five Fun Facts About Chaga

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  1. Chaga is not a mushroom, though it is often included in mushroom books and referred to as Chaga Mushroom.  Rather, it is a hardened mass of mycelium (the underlayer of growth that produces mushrooms).  The proper term for this hardened mass is Sclerocium, and the plural is Sclerocia.  See, that’s fun to say, isn’t it?
  2. Chaga grows exclusively on Birch trees.  Other trees have similar looking growths, and mostly those are Burls.  Burls are an abnormal growth that is covered by bark, often caused by an injury or a virus.  Chaga starts growing in the heart wood of the tree, and slowly pushes its way out through the bark.
  3. Chaga is medicinal.  It has been used medicinally for many years, and like many folk medicines, our science is slowly beginning to ‘prove’ it.  It strengthens our immune system and even has some cancer fighting properties.  Here are links to a couple of studies:
    1. One on mice: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946216/
    2. One on humans: https://iubmb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/biof.552210120
  4. We don’t eat the chaga – it’s much to hard and woody.  We simmer the chaga chunks or powder for a long time and then drink the ‘tea’.  It tastes like coffee, but much smoother.
  5. It can be harvested in the winter.  In fact, it’s much easier to harvest in the winter-time because we can easily see the blackened outside part of  Chaga against the white of the Birch without all the leaves in the way.  Some people say we should ONLY harvest in the winter, but that’s just not true.  There is no change in the medicinal value of the chaga in other seasons, and you won’t harm the tree by simply cutting the chaga off.

Here is a link to more detaily information about chaga by a fellow forager in Eastern Wisconsin.  Enjoy!

https://edenwildfood.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/harvesting-chaga-what-you-need-to-know/

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A Forager in the Winter

2017-11-30 14.58.42Things I like to do in the Winter:

Make soup with Wild Foods I’ve preserved.

Play with plant fibers I’ve harvested to make jewelry cordage and other creative stuff.

Read novels with themes around botany, foraging or herbalism.

Plan next years’ Wild Food and Folk Medicine classes.

Go snowshoeing and enjoy the quiet woods.

Watch birds at my backyard feeder, which will contain some foraged seeds (yellow dock, plantain and amaranth) along with the ones I purchase at the store.

Forage!  Even in a Wisconsin Winter, I can go pick some fresh pine needles for tea, or dig in the snow around those pine trees to find Wintergreen leaves and berries.  I can harvest some Chaga mushrooms from Birch trees.  I may be able to pick up some Black Walnuts that the squirrels left behind.  I love the seasons in Wisconsin, and even though winter seems to take up most of the year, I love knowing that there are tasty treasures to hunt for in this frozen tundra.