Chaga is increasing in popularity as more and more people discover its powerful healthy benefits. With Chaga available to the everyone, it is important to be aware of its place within the ecosystem and its sustainability. This mushroom grows in and is harvested from birch trees, but will Chaga grow back?
The answer to this question is more complicated than yes or no. To fully understand the answer, you need to understand the life cycle of Chaga. Chaga can take as long as twenty years to mature. It begins growing on the inside of the birch tree and then, protrudes making the burnt looking conk at maturity. Because Chaga typically grows on trees that have been injured or weakened somehow, it is unknown whether the Chaga kills the birch tree or the birch dies of other causes with Chaga present. That said, it is possible for Chaga to grow back once it has been harvested, but it is hard to know how long a birch tree hosting Chaga will continue to live.
Size to Harvest
ChagaHQ suggests that to ensure the Chaga continues to grow after being harvested, only grapefruit sized chunks or larger should be removed. ChagaHQ also recommends leaving 15-20% of the Chaga on the tree. This allows the Chaga to grow back and prevents any damage to the tree itself. It is important to avoid cutting into the tree or damaging it in any way. This could accelerate the decline of the tree and make it less likely for the Chaga to grow back before the tree dies.
When To Harvest
It is ideal to harvest Chaga during the winter when the tree is dormant. During this season the nutrients that make Chaga so healthy are at their peak. Also, refraining from harvesting in the spring can prevent the tree from being damaged in a way that would prevent further growth.
Avoid Dead Trees
Chaga should not be harvested from dead trees. It will not have the same nutritional value. It may also create off flavors or a particularly bitter taste when used for tea.
How Much Chaga?
While Chaga is relatively rare, it is challenging to know exactly how much Chaga is growing in the wild. We only see and harvest the towards the end stages of Chaga growth. However, any number of trees could be hosting Chaga that is growing unseen underneath the bark of the birch tree. There is no way to know how much Chaga will or won’t be available in the future.
Ultimately, Chaga can grow back. In an ideal situation it could be harvested several times, in intervals of a few years, from a relatively healthy trees. However, there is no guarantee that the tree will not die preventing the Chaga from regenerating. Chaga can be harvested carefully and sustainably so that it can be used year after year without damage or trauma to the host tree. At Chaga Natural we source our Chaga from sustainable harvesters in Russia. This Chaga has been removed responsibly from a region where both birch trees and Chaga are abundant. While Chaga is ideal for good health, it is important to remember that it is a natural part of our environment and we must care for it if we want to continue enjoying its benefits.