Chaga Mushroom Harvesting
I harvested this tree in the pictures below first in 2006 and then harvested it again in 2010. And as you can see, I did not disturb the inner part of the tree by digging into the tree. It remains sealed and does not harm the Xylem or the Pith of the tree, by doing this, the Chaga will continue to grow as long as the tree lives. I will go back and harvest it again in 2014.
Sad news folks, I went back to this tree on 26/01/2014 and someone had beat me to it, not to worry though, it must have been one of my guys because the tree still looks strong and healthy and was harvested correctly, so there's always 2018 if I can get to it first that is.
(Update 2020, unfortunately when I went back to the tree in 2018, it was dead, so did not get a fourth harvest from the tree)
Most trees that die soon after being harvested for Chaga is caused by the harvesters digging or chiselling into the tree to get all of the Chaga inner layer out, this practice results in further damage being done to the structure of the tree.
I was a certified Arborist for over 20 years and I personally teach my harvesters how to sustainably harvest these trees, adhering to the I.S.A. (International Society of Arboriculture) pruning standards. If your local Tree Service or forestry worker cannot explain to you what a collar cut or bark ridge cut is, then this person should not be working on your tree's or collecting Chaga.
Yes, it is true that the Chaga will eventually kill the tree, as well as the one in the picture below, but this is a big healthy tree and because it has only one infection, will live for many many more years with proper care. If a tree has many infections, then it will die within four to five years, and you may not get another harvest from the tree.
Do not harvest Chaga from a dead tree! If the tree is dead, the Chaga will be dead as well, and will have 0 medicinal values. Teas made from dead Chaga will be very bitter with a rather unpleasant musky taste.
Chaga is sometimes consumed as a food, but most often as a beverage, so with this in mind, it deserves all the Food Safety precautions and protocols that any food product for human consumption deserves. There are no bathrooms or wash stations in the forest, so carry hand sanitizer with you at all times to use after Nature calls.
Never transport your fresh picked Chaga in compartments near any petroleum products such as gas or oils, nor anything that might contaminate your Chaga
Do not harvest Chaga smaller than a grapefruit size.( a minimum approximate of 4lb- to 5/lb size should be adhered to). Leave these smaller ones to grow for a couple of more years. I myself put my hand on the Chaga, and if any part of my fingers can touch the tree, then I leave it to grow for a couple more years.
If harvesters continue to take all they see as they are now, then we will have very little left for future generations. Let's all try to be Mother Nature's little gardeners, and learn to farm her bounty sustainably. Also unless you are harvesting Chaga for your own consumption, stop harvesting when the sap starts running in the Birch trees, it is at this time that the mushroom will have as much as 90% water content and will be flushed out of nutrients until the next fall when all trees are gathering their water, nutrients and energy for the upcoming winter.
In the fall we wait until we have 20 straight nights of 5 or below Celsius. This is when we know that the trees have gone dormant for the winter and the Chaga is at it's peak of nutrient & enzyme values. We then harvest through the fall and winter, and into the spring until the sap starts running.
If you wound a birch tree while the sap is running and do not close the wound , some trees depending on size will bleed out and die. Just ask anyone who taps birch trees for Birch Syrup, they can tell you how they plug or cover their cuts up after harvesting the sap. We do not harvest Chaga through the summer months at all while the sap is still running in the Birch trees, as I see others doing on YouTube. When viewing these videos, look closely at the background, do you see green leaves on the trees? Is the foliage in the background still green? If you can, then the people making these Videos know nothing about Chaga and do not care about your health, do not buy Chaga from these people, they only care about your money!
The picture below is a perfect example of what you DO NOT want to do to the tree while harvesting, as this will kill the tree for sure !!
The picture on the left is a perfect example of what not to do to the tree. As you can see, the pick-end of this ax (nice axe though) is driven almost clear through the heart of this tree.
If this tree wasn't dead before, it is now!
These are my harvesting tools. All Stainless Steel -
Never use old rusty ferrous axes, hatchets or chisels to harvest or process your Chaga! Always use non - ferrous food grade 440 stainless steel tools to avoid rust and trace metal contamination from getting into the Chaga during harvest or the processing of of your. And Chaga is a food beverage being consumed internally, and deserves all the food safety precautions taken by any commercial food manufacturing company.
A picture of our Food Grade processing facility!
Always use stainless steel tables for cleaning stainless steel racks for curing with lots of air flow, do not use a heat source, just cooler air blowing through the Chaga or any other mushroom. We set our heat pumps at 64 degrees with gentle air being blown through the racks of Chaga. Doing it this way retains far more of the nutrients than conventional heat methods.
I am not the Creator nor the designer of this gift, but I am however one of Mother Nature's little gardeners and do respect her laws. If we wound Her a little bit, She will heal and give us more in time, but if we wound Her too deeply and beyond Her ability to heal, then there will be none for any of us!