And the prize of this weekend’s expedition–chaga! One of the healthiest, most medicinal, tastiest and most useful fungi on the planet. It looks like an unappealing burned scab of charcoal on a birch tree trunk, but under the black is the orange to yellow mycelium. It is hard and you need a hatchet to remove it. It smells something like tea; a bit less strong, and to consume it you grind off the black part and crush the wood-hard orange-yellow mycelium then steep it as a tea. (Dry for a week first. Don’t use boiling water or you will destroy some of the medicinal qualities. Use about 1 tbspn of ground chaga per cup of water, just as you would ordinary tea. Leave it to steep overnight. Store the tea in a sealed glass or stainless steel container–never plastic! Add a little maple syrup, honey or sugar, if you like.)
Chaga: Fungus of a Thousand Uses
It tastes lovely, with a unique flavor. To gain additional medicinal potency, make a tincture of the dregs after making tea, then combine the tincture with the tea. Have a cup daily.
It is known for increasing resistance to all manner of infection including cancer. Or let it dry a while then take a smidgeon and keep it in your tinder box to use with flint and steel for lighting camp fires. It catches and holds a spark very reliably. This is about 6 lbs, all from one huge knot, and I left a good third of the knot on the tree. I suspect it will weigh a third less after it is dried.