A Beginner’s Guide to Preparing Chaga Mushrooms
Ok – so, you’ve found a clutch of Chaga mushrooms.
Now, however, you’re going to need to prepare them correctly to get all of those wonderful nutrients out. Believe it or not, there are a few specific ways to do this – and it takes a little more preparation than just eating a mushroom whole!
So how do you safely get those superfood benefits out of these marvelous mushrooms? Read on for the full breakdown and some truly tasty ideas.
Can You Eat Chaga Whole?
It’s not physically impossible, but it’s not a good idea. When you bite down into chaga, you will likely find the texture and taste to be a bit earthy. However, more crucially, you’re not going to be able to get all the nutrients you need from the mushrooms by just sinking your teeth into a chaga.
Yes – once your foraging is over and done with for the day, you’re going to need to come up with an extraction and preparation system so that you can use the extract in a variety of everyday foods and drinks. Don’t worry, as this is hardly going to require any major equipment.
You can derive chaga extract through hot water, alcohol, or grounding up. Effectively, the best way to derive nutrients from chaga is by combining alcohol and warmth together. Then, you can use the nutrient-rich extract to make tea and protein bars – and more besides. There are plenty of great chaga recipes out there!
However, before you start diving into the nitty-gritty of dishes and recipes, you’re going to need to extract those nutrients. Let’s start.
Powdered Chaga, or Chunks?
Ask any seasoned chaga tea lovers, and you will likely find that chunks of chaga are the best way forward for great-tasting, nutrient-filled tea. Before starting to derive any nutrients from your chaga, you will, of course, need too carefully slice and break them down into pieces.
Of course, if you are new to chaga, you might also want to consider buying powder outright. Grinding chaga into powder is a process that is likely going to take a lot of time and effort. However, if you are new to the idea of deriving the nutrients at all, it makes sense to practice with chaga powder you might buy from a store.
That said, the best chaga – in our opinion – is that which you prepare yourself. Naturally! Therefore, once you’ve practiced preparing chaga powder a few times, it’s obviously going to be working chunking up your own resources for the best-tasting tea, coffee, and more besides.
How to Prepare Chaga Mushrooms
Of course, it’s not a good idea to try using chaga until you’re sure that it is clean to consume! Even the most nutrient-heavy chaga needs a wash to make sure that you’re not bringing in any bacteria or dirt. Therefore, rinse under running water for a while, shaking anything free, which might have nestled in before you picked it.
Then, you’re going to need to break it all down. That is easy enough to do by hand or with a small knife – just be careful! Then, you need to leave your chaga to dry. That is going to take some time, but believe us – it’s worth it in the long run.
To dry your chaga once clean, be sure to leave it somewhere dark or shaded. Then, you should be careful to leave it to its own devices for a few days. However, to get the best out of any chaga, you’re going to need to give it even more time to become brittle.
Therefore, make sure you have somewhere dry and dark to store your chaga while it settles down. Thoroughly drying chaga can take anywhere close to a month, meaning it’s not a good idea to rush the process.
As you’ll find, preparing and getting the most out or chaga does take time and effort. If you are serious about getting the most out of these nutrients, you’re going to need to clear out your schedule. If you’ve gotten this far, it’s unlikely to cause you stress.
Why Do I Need to Derive the Nutrients?
The fact is Chaga’s fantastic health benefits are locked away behind thick cell walls. The science behind this can get a bit involved, so let’s keep things simple. By boiling or brewing your chaga down, you can ensure that these walls are broken and that you can dig into that superfood content you’ve been hearing so much about.
Basically, if you go ahead and just bite into a chaga whole, or try to enjoy it with a meal, you’ll get nothing from it. Bizarrely enough, while all those incredible ingredients and nutrients are deep within the mushroom, they won’t come out to play until you break down their physical structure.
Extraction Through Hot Water
This is likely to be one of the easiest ways to get the most out of your chaga. After all, if you have access to a hot water tank or a kettle, you’re already halfway there. Heating chaga in water will help you to break down its inner components. That won’t destroy the nutrients providing you tackle it the right way!
In fact, boiling chaga will allow you to bring those lovely nutrients right out. You should probably avoid boiling chaga outright – you’re going to need to heat them up in water, reaching temperatures of around 80 degrees Celsius. That’s still plenty of heat!
You can extract nutrients at home from chaga in a saucepan or similar. We would normally recommend that you use chunks for the best results. Chunks are likely going to be easier to reuse, and while this process is going to take a bit longer than most options, you’re arguably going to be getting the best results.
Alternatively, you can boil up around 10g of powder in less than two hours. It’s quick and convenient, but you’re going to need to keep extracting again and again if you want to get more out of your chaga. Chaga chunks are great to reuse.
When using hot water extraction to get nutrients out of your chaga, be sure not to push it to the full boil. Water that is too hot is going to do more harm than good. Keep a saucepan of water gently cooking below full boil for up to four hours, and once the liquid is nice and dark, you can then strain it for tea.
If you’re using chaga chunks – and we hope you are – you can safely store them away somewhere airtight. You can reuse these chunks a few more times before they will degrade or lose all nutrients.
Alcohol and Tinctures
As mentioned, alcohol derivation of nutrients is also entirely possible if you have a clutch of chaga chunks. While companies and mass producers use complicated processes, you can also get the best out of chaga at home with your own tipples. That is going to need more than a simple glass of wine or two, however.
Specifically, you should douse your chaga chunks in fairly strong alcohol. We recommend using alcohol of at least 40% volume, though anything up to 80% is still likely to produce fantastic results. What you’re going to need to do is prepare a clean jar for your chunks and place them in. Then, you should lace your pieces in alcohol of your choosing.
A great neutral alcohol that is strong enough for this process is vodka. It’s easy to come by and is, on the whole, affordable compared to stronger spirits. It’s important to remember that you should NEVER use pure ethanol or rubbing alcohol during this process!
What’s more, this process is going to take more than a little time to really work its magic. Once you’ve sealed your alcohol-laced chunks of chaga away, it might be as long as two months before you can safely sample your concoction!
This will produce a strong, potent, and highly nutritious chaga resource that you can safely take daily by carefully popping it under your tongue. Just as you might with a drop of liquid nutrient or CBD oil, you can safely take on a daily dose of chaga that’s packed full of nutritional excellence.
Why Prepare Chaga with Alcohol?
Many people advise that preparing chaga with alcohol is a more comprehensive way of getting at the nutrients. That’s because not everything that you want to derive from chaga will dissolve or become available through hot water. For example, some of the best immunity-boosting elements of chaga will likely come to the surface through alcohol brewing.
Alcohol preparation is likely a good idea if you’re serious about getting the most out of your clutch. However, the hot water method is a better choice if you are pressed for time. Alcohol preparation takes several weeks – which means if you’re not desperate for the nutrients right away, you can leave it to stew for a while.
Hot water preparation will allow you to take away chaga tea within a few hours. What’s more, you can reuse the same chunks again and again in time to come. It might be a more economical use of your mushrooms.
Why Not Use Water and Alcohol?
Of course, it’s entirely possible to make use of hot water and alcohol together. Many people prefer this process as they believe it will mean you get the most out of your mushrooms. Your own experience may vary, but thankfully, it is easy enough to combine the two.
To take advantage of the dual process, you should make sure to follow the alcohol guide above. Once you have your alcohol tincture, you should then put the mixture through the hot water guide. Simple enough – but to really get the most nutrients, you are going to need to ensure your final product is around two thirds alcohol, and one third tea.
That isn’t easy to do – but there’s a clear benefit. Just as there are some nutrients in chaga that you won’t get from hot water, there are just as many you won’t get from alcohol. Therefore, the dual extraction process is recommended if you really want to make the most of your clutch.
That said, this will, of course, add more time to proceedings. However, as mentioned earlier in our guide, you probably wouldn’t have come this far if you weren’t serious about making the best out of your chaga hunting!
What Else is Chaga Good For?
It’s safe to say that plenty of people hunt down and forage for chaga for the nutrients. However, it’s also a fantastic natural resource for a few other everyday means, too! For example, did you know that chaga might help to repel mosquitoes?
The smell of burning chaga may be enough to drive away pesky pests. At the height of summer, if you are looking for a natural way to drive away winged bloodsuckers, you should consider lighting a little chaga outside. To prepare chaga for mosquito elimination, you should be careful to follow the drying process as above.
Once fully dried, you can then safely light chaga outside to generate sweet-smelling smoke. This is likely to drive even the most ardent of mosquitoes away, meaning that if you’re sick of getting bitten, all you need is a little chaga and a bit of kindling.
In fact, chaga is fantastic for lighting fires and for keeping flames rolling. It’s always worth being careful with chaga near heat and flames indoors, but if you are out and about and need a way to carry fire across from place to place, transferring to chaga is nice and easy. It’s also one of the safest ways to control fire portably.
What you will need to do is keep your chaga in leather and cloth once it begins to smolder. Then, simply reignite the ember you’re carrying with a little CO2 – breathing on it will do – and you’ll find that it acts as a brilliant firelighter.
You’ll even find that chaga is great for starting fires, too! Simply make sure, again, that you have fully dried out your mushroom and that you have ground it down. You can then use the resulting powder in the same way you might with tinder.
As always, be extremely careful if you are handling fire in any shape or form. While starting and stoking fires with chaga is easy and safe enough in principle, you should always make sure to take things slowly.
Once you have your clutch of chaga from a recent hunt and forage, it’s time to make the most of it. However, understanding how to prepare and derive the nutrients from your mushroom is something you are going to need to read up on.
We hope our beginner’s guide has helped you to appreciate the work that goes into preparing chaga! With just a few days out of your schedule, you will soon be enjoying rich, nutrient-packed natural goodness in teas and more besides.