How Chaga Is Harvested
Chaga must be harvested properly to retain the active, beneficial ingredients. Properly harvesting chaga begins by finding the right source. While chaga grows in a few locations around the world, we believe the purest and most potent chaga grows in Siberia, the only place we wild-harvest our chaga.
Air quality of the region is an important element for chaga. Since chaga absorbs toxic substances from the air, such as heavy metals and radionuclides, the ideal harvesting spot is far from big cities, industrial areas, and highways. The chaga used in Sayan products is harvested by hand, in the wilds of the northern Siberian Irkutsk Region and Khakassia, which we consider the best chaga source in the world.
Sayan only harvests wild chaga in forests that are more than 200 kilometers from the nearest town. This ensures the ecological cleanliness of the chaga and the preservation of its medicinal properties. To collect chaga, we employ specially trained people with experience and who are able to distinguish and find the highest quality chaga mushroom.
Chaga grows only on old, living birch trees. The best birch trees are at least 10–15 years old, with the chaga growing at least 2–3 meters from the ground. This combination seems to foster a stronger concentration of medicinal properties in the chaga.
Some believe that chaga can be harvested all year round, regardless of season. At first glance, this is true, because chaga is a fungus that lives long, grows slow, and is well-protected from all sorts of weather. But experience suggests that it is best to collect chaga in the spring and autumn since it accumulates the greatest amount of useful ingredients during the spring sap flow and autumn preparation for the harsh winter days.
Chaga freezes during winter and it’s difficult to pull it from the birch tree. In the summer, when the forest is covered with abundant greenery, it’s almost impossible to find chaga and harvesting cost increases, which is often passed through to the customer.
It is believed that chaga has more nutrients and beneficial properties if it grows on a birch tree in the birch forest, rather than a lone birch in the middle of other tree species. Located on a separate tree, chaga contains much less biologically active substances.
It’s impossible to collect chaga from a dry tree, since as soon as the tree dies, the chaga begins to wither. Also, it’s not advisable to collect chaga from the ground, as these are generally old, crumbling growths. It’s easy to distinguish such unsuitable growths: they are loose, easily crumbled, and black over their entire thickness.
Other subtleties must also be taken into account during the collection of chaga. We have described only a tiny fraction of the nuances associated with chaga and its preparation.
Harvesting Best Practices
Harvesting chaga takes skill. When harvesters remove chaga mushroom from the birch trees, a thin layer of mycelium is left. You can see how the birch tree after chaga harvesting looks like on the right.
Each harvester ensures that the chaga harvesting is properly done so the birch tree is not damaged. Small pieces of chaga are left on the birch tree to promote future chaga growth.
The best technique allows faster recovery for the tree and it also increases the nutrients which birch tree gets after the large chaga is removed. By removing mature chaga, the life of the birch tree might be extended while more chaga grows.
By contrast, other chaga providers, in an effort to reduce the cost, often buy chaga from multiple suppliers without proper control over how the harvesting is done. It’s common in these situations for chaga to be left unattended and unprocessed for a long period of time. This can lead to microbial growth and other potential issues like lack of nutritional value. The best chaga is processed quickly from harvesting to processing to final product.
As a final step in the harvesting process, all our chaga is tested in the lab to ensure it is sanitary, clean, and free of radionuclides
We follow best practices for collecting, drying, and storing chaga. After chaga is separated from the birch tree, it should be treated in a certain way. As soon as possible, chaga should be taken from the tree to the processing facility where it is cleaned and inspected.
Part of the processing is finding the right portion of the chaga to use. Not all parts of birch chaga are equally suitable as a supplement. And if one part of the mushroom has many nutrients, others might be almost useless.
The least beneficial are the light and loose parts of chaga, adjacent to the trunk. We discard them along with all sorts of chips and pieces of birch bark right there in the forest. Only the solid parts, the Chaga Conk, are used. They are found on the outer and middle part of the chaga mushroom. Read more about chaga layers here.
Our manufacturer is FDA-registered facility which employs only trained professionals. Testing is performed on each collection of harvested chaga in certified labs by these trained professionals. Raw chaga is tested for consistent nutrient and taste standards to ensure quality and consistency.
Fresh chaga mushroom is easily exposed to mold, so it cannot be left to dry in too wet, too cold, or poorly ventilated areas Thus fresh chaga needs to be dried as soon as possible; otherwise it will lose a large part of the biologically active substances
Our proprietary drying process takes place at dry, warm, and well-ventilated place. Fresh chaga must be cut into pieces no more than 3–6 cm wide and dried until the pieces become hard and crumbling. Well-dried birch mushroom should be placed into glass jars with tight-fitting lids. It can also be packed into sealed paper or canvas bags.
Correctly collected, prepared, and stored chaga retains all of its healing properties for 2 years.
That is our process of harvesting and processing chaga mushroom which leads to the best quality products at Sayan Chaga.
If you have questions about proper harvesting and preparation methods, call us or send us an email, and we’d be glad to help.