Foraging for wild edibles has been one of my favorite activities since childhood.  My mother hunted (and continues to hunt) for wild puff ball mushrooms, morels, wild ramps and fiddlehead ferns.  We tapped maple trees in our yard and enjoyed the spoils of our relative’s hunting and fishing outings.  I’ve eaten cattail, wild sorrel, various wild berries,  fire weed, spruce tips, and many others.  We’ve even made salves, teas and balms with foraged plants and herbs.

What is that black spot on that birch?!  is it a nest? a burl?  It's chaga!

What is that black spot on that birch?! is it a nest? a burl? It’s chaga!

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  1. Adrienne says:

    I heard about chaga from the president of the Mycological Society in San Francisco. He recommended four types for my anti-cancer diet. We have many foragers who work with Far West Fungi and although shiitake and maitake mushrooms are fairly easy to obtain, the chaga is a bit rare. I use the dried mushrooms in soups but haven’t tried them in tea yet. Thank you for letting us know about these amazing fungal helpers!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      The Mycological Society sounds like it must be full of fun guys (and gals!). Ha. Ha. I bet they never hear that one. I read somewhere that chaga is present on one of every 10,000 birch trees. However, I have seen it a lot up here, even spotting it from my car several times. We must be in the ideal climate! I should try mine in a soup. Yum.

  2. Joan says:

    Great article!! I too have been into the ‘wild’ side of eating – just because it is there, never heard of chaga, probably because I don’t live where birch grow nicely. Also love the pic with the babies – who are growing so fast – to double precious they are. God bless.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Joan! I like that–the “wild side”–it must harken back to our hunter/gatherer ways. Although, now instead of survival we gain great pleasure in the hunt. Those babies are growing SO fast. I can’t believe they are walking and babbling together. Soon they will be able to forage with us!

  3. Barbara says:

    A close friend who is a 20+ year herbalist and a RN, introduced me to chaga last year. It is found here in the Catskill mountains of NY, so I have a great supply. I started having gastro-intestinal problems and after an endoscopy found just mild irritation at the base of my esophagus, I began to have pain in my stomach; kept me up at night and it hurt! My friend told me to start with the chaga tea again (I had stopped last year….don’t know why)…and the first night I drank it (about 4 – 6 oz each evening), the pain was gone. It’s now an every-day thing for me. …… When you first make the chaga tea, you should place it in a glass (never use metal….no pots, no utensils) pot (I use Corningware)…about 2 tablespoons…and cover with at least 16 oz of water (or until you can’t see the chaga pieces). Let soak, covered, overnight. The next day, bring to a SIMMER (never boil) for 30 minutes or so, with lid askew for venting. Then, cover fully, again, and let sit overnight or for 8 hours. The next day, simmer again for 30 minutes….and now it’s ready. It takes time for the water to extract the nutrients from the hard chaga mushroom. Every day, when you take some out to drink, replace the liquid you removed with fresh water….you always want to keep the mushroom pieces covered. Mine usually lasts like this for 2 – 3 weeks!! It never gets spoiled. If, for some reason, you do see spoilage (mold, etc.), toss it. When the tea starts to lighten (when you can see the mushroom pieces), it’s time for a new batch. I take those pieces, and dry them on a plate for a few days (crumbs and all). Then I run it through a blender (to start getting the pieces smaller….they are tough!) and then a coffee grinder. Use the “chaga flour” for baking! No waste! …… Thanks for posting this article and for reminding readers about responsible harvesting. Chaga takes a very, VERY long time to grow. ~~Peace!~~

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Wonderful, Barbara! Thank you for your insight and incredibly useful tips. This is how I will be preparing my chaga from now on. Peace to you as well!

  4. susana says:

    I never heard of Chagra, but I am familiar with adaptogens. I use Astragulus which is s one adaotogen that also fights some forms of cancer and other fungus . I take it on occasion now, but took it regularly to fight tumor growths. It also is good for other reason.

    But you need to be very careful cause it is a fungi. Some fungus can have a reverse affect. And cause sicknesses and diseases. I used yo walk barefoot and got a white fungus growing in my feet. Fungus , black and some more toxic can actually kill a child. Please be careful in hour harvesting if fungi… certain you know fir certain f their vale. I would never feed it to a child.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Susana. I only harvest mushrooms that I am very certain of. I am a trained naturalist and have taken mycology courses. Many mushrooms and fungi are poisonous and are easily misidentified as edible. Chaga is easily identifiable.

  5. Hi Alex,

    I loved reading about the Chaga. I’d never heard of it before. What an awesome thing it is to forage and harvest things in the wild and then to have the courage to actually use it. I think I am sort of a baby that way… 🙂

    I was reading your comments and loved the one from Barbara. This Chaga must be the most amazing thing. I’m thinking I need to check into it!

    Thanks for the post. Awesome as always! – Dori –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Dori! I love wild foraging, but I am always certain that it has been correctly identified before ingesting. The most worrisome things to harvest are berries and mushrooms as they can go fatally wrong. I would recommend taking some classes from your local extension office or something similar. I bet those hills around you have some pretty great treasures!

  6. Lisa Ferrel says:

    Hello Alex and thank you for your blog about Chaga. It’s interesting read the comments others have sent you. My company makes 8 flavors of tea + honey – that is raw, unfiltered honey infused with organic herbs. Our “Mocha Chaga” tastes like cocoa because it has a lot of cacao, but at the same time each cup has a goodly amount of powdered Chaga. Ours is wild-harvested by our son in mid-central Maine. I drink a plain Chaga tea every day to reduce my sugar numbers and I’m thrilled to say it really works! So thanks for spreading the word, Alex. If you’d like to know more about our teas just go to our website: Cheers

  7. Lisa Ferrel says:

    Hello Alex and thank you for your blog about Chaga. It’s interesting to read the comments others have sent you. My company makes 8 flavors of Honey Tea – that is, raw, unfiltered local honey infused with organic herbs and teas. Our “Mocha Chaga” tastes like cocoa because of the cacao, Lucuma and sea salt, but it also includes a goodly amount of powdered Chaga. All the ingredients infuse in the honey, so you just add a spoonful to hot water to make a great cup of tea. I drink plain Chaga tea every day to reduce my sugar numbers. It works! Our Chaga is wild-harvested by our son in central Maine, but as you say, Chaga lives in all the world’s boreal forests. Thanks for spreading the word about Chaga. Check out our website for more info. on all our teas: Cheers Lisa

  8. Jeff Orr says:

    wondering best place to buy raw or chunk chaga in salt lake city

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Spring Break!

It’s spring break season for students of all ages—from little preschoolers to non-trad college students.  For many, this means trips to warm southern climes:  Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, bikinis, tropical cocktails, suntans and sandy scalps.  For others, it might be a good time to pick up extra shifts at work and make some spending money.  Then, there are the folks who don’t have a designated spring break, because they work 9-5 jobs.  We are a little bit of all of these.  Evan works a “real” job, but his “weekend” is Tuesday and Wednesday.  He’s also a student who happens to be on spring break.  I have been nannying for a family who is also on spring break this week, so I have the week off.  It turns out, Evan and I had our first two days off together since mid-January.  We decided to celebrate with a spring break trip!

Spring Break, Alaska Style.  Ava doesn't look impressed!

Spring Break, Alaska Style. Ava doesn’t look impressed!

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  1. susana says:

    Love the Alaska backwoods trip with you. Even though it was just a visual, I enjoyed the narratives and ohtos. …since I always wanted to go to Alaska but never found the time, even though I have traveled to many wonderful places.
    I Love how Ava is so curious and brave to put her in the water with sea creatures. Must have been a joy to see her test the waters of many adventures. She’s so sweet.
    I love the fungus glasses on the tree….and you feel the wonders of nature first hand. How weird but wonderful…..even G*d has a sense of humor in His creations! Thanks for sharing your spring break!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thank you, Susana! It was a nice little trip for our family. Ava is a a brave and tough little Farmgirl!

  2. Denise Ross says:

    Sounds a fabulous spring break. We are heading into autumn weather here, and I’m looking forward to some cooler temperatures. We’ve had a long hot summer this year. I’m looking forward to getting outside more from now on.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      I love that we have a dedicated reader from “down under” (do you even say that in Australia?!). It proves that Farmgirl is a condition of the heart, not location! Happy Fall to you and yours.

  3. Joan says:

    Thanks for the Spring break outing – I had a good time. Ava is growing so quickly – too cute she is. God bless.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks! She is growing up too quickly in my opinion, time for another wee little babe? Blessings to you, as well!

  4. Alex, what a perfect Spring Break trip! I loved Seward. My sister in law (who lives in Anchorage) and I spent a weekend in Seward a number of years ago. My favorite part of our time in the area was taking the Danny J Ferry to Halibut Cove. Oh my goodness, it is beautiful there. We hiked around the island and had lunch at The Saltry (I think that was the name of it), we went to a gallery and bought some beautiful pottery. What a fabulous time! And we stayed at a B&B in Seward and just enjoyed it all. My sister in law was very kind to play tourist with me!!! 🙂 Loved your post and love that darling little Ava, walking around in her super cute little boots! What did she think of the baby? Hugs, Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      So cool that you’ve been there, Dori (but you might be thinking of Homer? that’s nearer to Halibut Cove, I think))! I’m loooking forward to getting out on a boat this coming summer when my dad visits. The male half of our friendly couple down there is a captain on a tour boat! He has a classic, calm, Mainer sea captain voice–it will be a treat! Plus, we can’t wait to see that little baby again. At first Ava was indifferent toward the little guy, but once he started crying she wanted to comfort him a bit. So cute to see her interact with other kids and babies!

      • Dori Troutman says:

        Ha Ha!! Yep, you are right! It WAS Homer!! I had to refresh my memory on that trip. One thing I was reminded of by my husband was that he and his brother left from Seward on a big fishing trip and that is where we left them off at before my sister-in-law and I headed out on our weekend trip. And we had the best Halibut Chowder at a little restaurant in Seward. Someday we’ll go back! It’s such a beautiful state! I always look forward to your posts, Alex. – Dori –

        P.S. I’ll be anxious to hear about your boat trip with your Sea Captain friend. That is so awesome! 🙂

        • Alexandra Wilson says:

          Mmmmm, Halibut Chowder, my mouth is watering! I look forward to your posts, too, Dori. They help me realize that my dream can be reality some day all while providing great tips that apply to any Farmgirl. I also cannot wait for the boat trip with my friend. His voice is so soothing, it reminds me of an old-timey radio host.

  5. robin fritz says:

    i love your blog, some day i hope to see alaska. have a happy spring!

  6. Jennifer says:

    I would love to visit Alaska sometime; your words paint it so beautifully. My son was talking about going to college there, but it’s just so far from home! Still, an adventure would be lovely. We’re on our Spring Break now and so far, I have signed my oldest homeschooling son up to attend GED classes this summer.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! It is a long way from home the other states. It is the hardest part about living up here. You should definitely consider a trip up here sometime. I suggest March or late summer!

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