For decades Chaga has been used in folk medicine in the northern regions. Due to its co-dependent relationship with birch, Chaga mushroom grows in colder climates, where’s an abundance of birch trees. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of Chaga mushroom but not enough information on how to process and harvest it so that the fungus will truly provide the promised healthy compounds and minerals. Knowing how to properly store Chaga plays a key part in it.
Chaga needs to be properly dried before getting stored in an air-tight container. Some people prefer to leave their Chaga to “breathe”, meaning storing it in a clean paper bag or washcloth. The condition here is that the environment needs to be dry, as Chaga is easily contaminated by mold. It’s good to keep your stash at room temperature, away from direct light.
Before storing Chaga it needs to be fully dried
Whether you’ve decided to harvest Chaga yourself, bought it locally, or decided to go with a supplier, the most important part of preparing the mushroom is drying it. It’s suggested to cut the harvested Chaga into small chunks, while it’s still moist, often right next to the tree. Because once the fungus has been removed from the birch it’ll slowly start to dry out.
Chaga is often colonized by molds, other fungi, and bacteria. The biggest threat to your Chaga is mold. There are two most prevalent types, of which the more common is white mold on the Sclerotium – black outer layer and a greenish-blue mold in the inner layer. Both develop with improper processing and storage.
The process of drying Chaga isn’t complicated, just make sure not to let the temperature exceed 50 degrees Celsius. Feel free to use a dehydrator or dry them in an oven by keeping the oven door somewhat open for airflow, perhaps you’ll even find a dry, warm, well-ventilated spot to leave the Chaga to dry safely. The drying process generally takes a few days, up to weeks if dried in the sun.
Proper storage of Chaga
It’s important to note that when Chaga is treated right, it does not lose any of its medicinal or health properties over time. Meaning that well dried and stored Chaga can last you for years. When it comes to storing Chaga requires to be kept:
- At room temperature in a dry environment
- Away from direct sunlight
- In a clean container or a wash cloth
Ideal Chaga storing containers include glass jars. Depending on the humidity levels in your home, jars that can be vacuum-sealed might be the best option.
The most foolproof option would be to leave your dried chunks in a glass jar and store it in your cupboard. Another option would be freezing your Chaga, which will also help to keep it fresh over a longer period. Avoid sun exposure and other contaminants.
As discussed in previous articles, Chaga chunks can be reused up to six times. Keep in mind to keep the reused chunks separate from unused ones!
Mold on Chaga
Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter. We don´t know how many species of fungi exist, but an estimate is up to 300,000 and more. Most of them are threadlike organisms, as the production of spores is characteristic of fungi in general. These spores can be transported by air, water, or insects.
Mould requires water, food, and oxygen to grow. It also requires an environment with a temperature it can survive. While mold cannot spread without these conditions, its spores may survive in a dormant state until conditions are suitable.
Molds have branches and roots that are like very thin threads. The roots may be difficult to see when the mold is growing on food and maybe very deep in the food. Moldy foods may also have invisible bacteria growing along with the mold.
Meaning it’s not only hard to tell which mold is on your Chaga but it’s quite impossible to recognize how deep it is. In addition to that, you’ll have to consider the bacteria that are associated with the mold. Hence we recommend you to stay away from mold-contaminated Chaga and note the following steps to keep the mold from accruing again.
Four tips to stop your Chaga from growing mold
- Cut your Chaga into small chunks right next to the tree, the smaller the pieces the faster they dry.
- Start the drying process right after leaving the forest. Set your car AC on warm, and set the chunks out to dry before you reach home.
- Make sure your environmet is optimal for drying. The longer the process, the higher the risk of your Chaga growing mold.
- Store your Chaga in an air-tight jar, away from direct light
How can I determine quality of the Chaga?
If you’ve decided to buy your Chaga or Chaga products, you’ll simply need to get to know your supplier and trust their integrity. Money-motivated companies or individuals have been known to sell people low-quality Chaga, which has grown in busy roadsides or close to polluting factories. Not taking the time to properly dry their stash, which often ends up getting contaminated at one point. As well as mixing their Chaga powders with other things like dirt to make their hauls look bigger or harvesting from dead trees.
Here are some things to keep in mind when getting to know your supplier’s knowledge on harvesting Chaga:
- Ultimately the best-harvested Chaga is from spring, not only is the visibility better, due to smaller leaves and the sap has started to run. Sap is the fluid found in Chaga, containing dissolved mineral salts and nutrients.
- Chaga should never be harvested immature, it takes up to 20 years for the fungi to be considered fully mature. Around 40% (ideally 50%) of the Chaga should always be left on the tree, this allows the sclerotium to grow back. Make sure you trust the people to use best practices for sustainable harvesting.
- Sclerotium is a precious part of the superfood, containing high amounts of melanin. This is where a lot of your antioxidants hide. That’s why we recommend our readers to buy Chaga chunks instead of powder. It’s easy to determine whether the sclerotium is still intact on the nuggets.