Chaga has been taking the world by storm ever since its introduction via the Internet a few years ago. While famously used as a folk remedy by generations of Alaskans and Siberians, the Internet and improved technology now allow anyone around the world to enjoy chaga by ordering it online. With all the hullabaloo about chaga, one question is on the minds of many users: is it possible to grow your own chaga?
The answer is no, unfortunately. Due to the nature of the chaga mushroom, it must be harvested wild in order to be of any use. Chaga cannot be grown by individual users for a variety of reasons; even chaga vendors are restricted to using wild chaga. Here are the reasons why it is impossible to grow chaga on your own.
Why You Can’t Grow Chaga
The first and biggest hurdle to growing chaga is the nature of how chaga grows. Chaga is found on birch trees in the wild, the result of a natural interplay between the different types of life found in the world. At a minimum, you would need to plant birch trees on your property and seed them with chaga in order to cultivate the mushroom naturally, which is prohibitively expensive and extremely time-consuming due to how long it takes both of them to grow.
A second problem with growing chaga is climate. While chaga can be found across a wide swath of the northern hemisphere, the vast bulk of chaga is useless due to warm climates spoiling the nutritional content. Only chaga harvested from extremely cold climates, such as Alaska and Siberia, can be used for human consumption. Unless you live in or near the Arctic Circle, growing chaga would be pointless since you won’t be able to use it.
In addition to this, chaga needs to be free of pollutants in order to be safe to consume. Like many fungi, chaga readily absorbs pollutants from the air, meaning that chaga that grows closer to cities will contain a greater percentage of these pollutants. It is for this reason that most reputable chaga vendors will only use chaga that is collected from extremely remote regions, to ensure the chaga is as pure as possible. If you live in or near civilization, any chaga you could grow would be tainted with air pollution.
While scientists have experimented with growing chaga in a lab environment, the nutritional content of these artificially grown mushrooms is radically different than wild chaga. Chaga acquires its nutritional value from its physical location, its surrounding climate, and its symbiotic relationship with birch trees, and any disturbance to these elements will result in substandard chaga. Because of this, attempting to grow chaga is a fruitless endeavor.
How to Harvest Chaga
While you can’t grow chaga in the way that you would grow flowers or vegetables, you can still cultivate chaga in your local area for future use. When you go out into the woods looking for chaga, make note of small chaga blooms on birch trees. These blooms, if left undisturbed, will eventually grow into big chaga mushrooms that you can pick for your own use.
In addition to this, you should manage the chaga in your area responsibly. Don’t selfishly remove whole chaga mushrooms from trees. This not only prevents the chaga from regrowing, it risks infecting the tree and killing it due to the newfound hole in its bark. Instead, leave a portion of chaga on the trees that you harvest from. This will allow the chaga to regrow over time, ensuring that you have a constant supply of the mushroom whenever you want it.
In general, you should treat chaga like you would any other resource that can be collected in the wild. While chaga will always regrow if given time and a favorable environment, strip-harvesting an entire forest of chaga will make this process slower. It will also force you to move further and further abroad in order to find usable chaga. If you carefully manage the supply of chaga in your area and treat the forest with respect, you’ll make harvesting it much easier over the years.
Due to the unique way in which it interacts with its environment, chaga will likely never be able to be grown by humans. Chaga’s nutritional value is fragile and can be easily ruined depending on climate, human activity, and dozens of other factors. As a result, you will always have to obtain chaga by either picking it yourself or by purchasing it from vendors who employ chaga pickers.
However, if you live in an area where usable chaga grows, don’t let this discourage you. Chaga is a venerable mushroom with a heritage stretching back for millennia, and by picking and using it, you’re tapping into one of the world’s most powerful medicinal secrets. Chaga has the ability to add so much to your life if used properly.