Chaga can’t be cultivated in a lab like other mushrooms. That’s because chaga isn’t a mushroom, and isn’t a saprophytic fungi like other medicinals. Innonotus obliquus is a parasitic fungus that attacks living trees, primarily Birch. By concentrating the nutrients of the host tree into a comglomrated mass of mycelium and digested wood, Innonotus obliquus produces what is know as “chaga”.
Demand for chaga is rising very quickly as more and more people learn about the nutritive bennefits of this superfood. Here I present an open source method to preserve this species from over-harvest and ultimately, extinction.
The process is simple. Culture chaga mycelium either from the chaga sclerotia, or from the chaga fruitbody. Once cultured and isolated, transfer to an ideal substrate such as sterilized birch dowels. Once these are fully colonized they are inserted into a drilled hole upon a living Birch tree. Wait 6 years…
This method is being used by companies in Europe who offer the chaga mycelium as a product, and a business investment. They are marketing this to landowners as a way to make money off their Birch trees before cutting them down and selling firewood. Conservation is not their motivation, in other words.
I contacted two of the prominent mycelium producers from Europe to request any research, photos, or data regarding this process. Neither had any long term studies to back up the claims of an efficatious way to cultivate chaga in this manner, nor any other information they were willing to share. Though they did give give a strong verbal reccomendation that the Finnish have done this successfully.
As it stands we are in year 1 of our research. I have isolated the chaga mycelium on petri dishes and transfered this to other substrates, and ultimately innoculated living Birch trees. I have marked the GPS co-ordinates of each tree and will keep this blog updated with the process. In addition, I am marking and collecting data on many chaga specimens both harvested fully, partially, and left intact to eventually publish a long term study on the chaga life cycle and effect of harvesting. Let’s share this knowledge, keep it protected open source, and preserve this wonderful organism.