Chaga you say? Don’t you mean chakras you crazy Yoga teacher? Or cha-cha? Maybe even chalupa? Sadly I’m guessing more people probably know what a chalupa is versus chaga. But I’m preaching to my choir now aren’t I? Chaga, Inonotus obliquus (latin), is a medicinal mushroom formed on the outside of a birch tree. As a birch dies in the forest, it releases its immune system in this large ugly, blackish/brown growth.
Don’t fear the ugly! This ugly growth has amazing health benefits, its antioxidant power is said to be the highest scoring antioxidant on the ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) and you can find it yourself in the woods. Research on the health benefits of chaga has shown that extracts of it can hamper the growth and proliferation of tumors as well as have positive effects on the immune system. Laboratory studies on extract of chaga mushroom has indicated possible future potential in cancer therapy, as an antioxidant, in immunotherapy, and as an anti-inflammatory. Plus it is super yummy with my afternoon favorite, chai tea.
Where to find? Get out your hiking boots, we’re going for a walk in the woods. Look in an area with mature birch trees, if you see a large blackish/brown growth, grapefruit size or larger on a live birch, grab your hand saw, cut it off and take home this immunity gold mine. If you can’t find it in the woods, or diy is not your thing, you can find it locally at Harmony Foods co-op.
To prepare for use as a beverage, you need to get your chaga in small enough chunks to grind. I use a hammer to chunk it up in small pieces. You may want to save some bigger chunks to add to roasts, stews or soups. Put small chunks in a stainless steel hand grinder to turn your chaga chunks into what looks like “coffee grounds” in texture. Place your ground chaga on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour at 100 degrees (or lowest heat setting), this is just to remove moisture so it doesn’t mold in storage. Do not scorch or burn, meaning know your oven and don’t go running off too long. You have just enough time to do some Yoga By Julie. 🙂
After cooled, I put in glass ball jars for storage. It looks beautiful on my pantry shelves.
To use in beverages, add 1 tsp to a tea ball or infuser along with your favorite earthy tea. I like Good Earth’s Wild Chaild. Sweeten with some birch syrup (yes that’s a real thing, I’ve made this as well but I’ll have to tell you about it in another episode), or use local raw honey, or stevia. You can reuse the chaga approximately 3 times, but you’ll need a new tea bag every cup of tea for best flavor.
Thank you to my amazingly talented, brilliant, and inspiring friend, Sunny Savage for introducing me to this antioxidant power house a few years ago. Her philosophy is eat one wild food every day, it’s a good challenge. Check out her cable TV show, ‘Hot On The Trail with Sunny Savage‘ or her TedX Maui talk for more information and ideas regarding wild foods foraging.
Enjoy the connection to nature and all of its bounty in this rewarding process earth lovers!