Date of the last update: 10.03.2022
At first glance, it looks like a lump growing on a piece of wounded tree. It can get really large. It is on the “Red List of Polish Plants and Fungi” and is a potentially endangered species with the R status. What does this mean? Unfortunately, we can’t forage it on our own, but we can still look up a bit and watch it grow to learn about its natural habitat and how much good it can do for us. The facts are intimidating.
It is currently January, the time of year when it is hard to find anything in the nature. Thus, we are left with the choice of winter mushrooms, the last rosehips and possibly fresh conifers. Just when I thought that nothing was going to surprise me and nothing new was there on the horizon, something suddenly caught my eye during a walk. It was a chaga, which looked like a fossil or solidified lava. I knew that some people supplement arboreal fungi in their daily diet, but I didn’t think I would stumble upon such a mushroom on my trip to the forest. And, most importantly, autumn and the period up to early spring is the best time to see a clinker polypore in the woods. So it’s well worth a trip into the woods to look for one.
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CHAGA – information
CHAGA / Clinker polypore, Birch conk, Birch canker polypore / Inonotus obliquus is a perennial fungus that grows on wounded or damaged trees, mainly on deciduous trees. It came to us from the northern regions of China and Russia, specifically from Siberia. In our country it is very rare, and if you do find it, it is usually on birch trees. It also grows on poplar, maple, elm and beech trees. It produces two types of fruiting bodies, sterile and fertile. Sterile mycelial masses are the first to grow and contain spores (dark-black cracked conk). These conks can survive on the tree for several years, reaching up to 40 cm in size. Then, when the tree on which the fungus is found dies, the second type appears, i.e. the fertile fruiting bodies. At that stage the fungus also attacks the centre of the host and grows from the inside. Even though for the tree it is undoubtedly a harmful parasite, for us, humans it contains a lot of ingredients which are natural antidotes that have been used for years.
CHAGA in the kitchen – how does it taste?
You can make a brew, tincture, infusion and use CHAGA mushroom as a powdered coffee additive. There are also supplement capsules available on the market, the powder mentioned above and the mushroom crushed into chunks. In that form, however, it needs to be simmered for up to 30 minutes, for a brew or infusion it is 15 minutes of infusing.
How does chaga taste? There is no mushroom aftertaste, it has a warm flavour which feels like dipping your taste buds and nose into a patch of forest moss. Most importantly, it does not have a bitter aftertaste like most mushroom-based products.
Chaga is a medicinal healing mushroom, which supports our body on many levels. Here are a few examples:
- it promotes health of your intestines, aids digestion, supports the entire digestive system and eases constipation. In the past chaga was used for liver problems and intestinal diseases
- helpful in stomach problems and gastritis, it supports mucous membrane thanks to betulinic acid that is naturally found in chaga mushroom
- it has an anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and anti-tumour effect
- supports memory and concentration
- purifies our body
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume chaga. It is worth doing an allergy test before you start supplementing your diet with chaga, especially if you have a food allergy to fungi.
Interesting facts – CHAGA
- Chaga mushroom which grows on the birch tree acquires a very important ingredient from the tree – betulin, which has a wide therapeutic application
- the crushed mushroom can be used for infusions several times, just prolong the brewing time. It remains usable as long as the infusion keeps its dark colour
- if you come across a broken birch tree with the mushroom, this is the only exception where you can forage it with a clear conscience
- it used to be used to carry fire because it smoulders and glows for a long time, which makes the fire last a long time on the bark
Wandering in the forest, all year round and throughout the seasons, every now and then I come across different wonders. I started with simple, common wild herbs that can be found every day. But the mushroom I have described to you today is really something special. As what I thought was just a pest and an arboreal parasite has a lot of health benefits. So have a look at mushrooms, their natural and health promoting properties. Perhaps your health and well-being is at your fingertips and you pass by them every time you go for a walk? Who knows? I know for sure that nature is amazing, so remember to take care of it and respect it every day. Then it will surely take care of us.