The chaga mushroom, whose common name is clinker polypore, is not easily recognizable as a fungus. Rather than being mushroom-like, it appears as a large, black tree canker and has a burnt charcoal color due to its large amount of melanin. The mushroom has been cultivated and sold extensively in Russia, Eastern Europe and Japan for medicinal purposes.
The chaga mushroom inside out
The black surface of the chaga mushroom is very hard and very dense with numerous cracks on the surface. Although the surface is black, the mushroom’s interior is yellow, often with bits of white. The yellow flesh is moderately hard with a seemingly pebbly and corky texture.
Where they grow
Chaga mushrooms grow all year round on the tree on which they’ve developed for many years. They can regularly be found on scarred white or yellow birch. They have also been reported to grow on hardwoods like hornbeam or beech. Unlike most mushrooms that grow on ground level, chaga mushrooms can often be found growing high up a tree. If you were to remove it yourself, you will most probably need an axe or a hatchet.
Chaga is typically prepared as a tincture or tea. Freshly harvested chaga mushroom can be made into tea, but is ideally dried first. Because the flesh of the chaga mushroom is dense, it needs to be chopped into smaller pieces for faster drying. Once the pieces have completely dried, it can be ground to powder form with a meat grinder or grist mill.
Lucky for us, we can experience the great benefits of this mushroom without needing to go to great lengths. Various chaga mushroom products like capsules, oils, teabags and extracts are sold by health supplement stores everywhere. You can even order these products online so you won’t have to leave the comfort of your home.
Other uses of chaga
While this fungus is greatly sought out for its ability to promote health and healing, it has found other uses throughout the ages. The chaga mushroom can be processed to yield a sepia or yellow dye which can then be used for textile or paper. It can also be used as tinder for roasting over open fire because they burn well when completely dried. Chaga mushrooms have also been used as incense, although they are not particularly fragrant.
Chaga 101: Interesting Facts about the Chaga Mushroom