Used by generations of people living in the northern hemisphere as a superfood, chaga is quickly becoming known around the world for its immune-boosting properties and anti-aging qualities. However, there is a right and a wrong way to dry and use chaga. Specifically, you must properly dry the chaga before you use it for making teas or any other products. While vendors of chaga typically will dry the chaga prior to shipping it to markets, users who harvest their own chaga will have to dry it on their own before using it.
How to Dry Chaga and How Long It Will Take
Before drying the chaga, you will want to split it up into smaller pieces so that you can go through the process more quickly. If your chaga is in “conks”, larger pieces you have picked straight off of a tree, you will need a hammer or a hatchet to break it down into smaller pieces. This can take a while because of the stiffness and thickness of the fibers in chaga mushrooms, but it is significantly easier than trying to dry an entire conk all at once.
Once you have separated out the chaga into smaller, manageable pieces, you are ready to dry it.
The fastest way to do this is through your oven. Place the chaga pieces onto a baking tray, and heat in an oven set at 110-115° F. for at least 24 hours.
This will make sure all the moisture is removed from the chaga, and you do not run the risk of burning it. If you have plenty of time and do not mind waiting a few days, you can dry the chaga naturally by placing it in a warm, dry part of your home.
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If you have a dehydrator, you can accelerate the speed of chaga drying even further by using your dehydrator. While you could also dehydrate your chaga by placing it outside, provided it is sunny and pleasant, this is not recommended because you risk polluting your chaga with mud and other additives.
How to Know When Chaga is Dry
You will know that your chaga is 100% dry via touch. Chaga found in the wild has a rubbery, cork-like feeling, but dried-out chaga is rock solid and almost feels like stone. To keep chaga’s dryness in check and maximize its lifespan, store in a sealed container in a cool, dry location. When dried and stored correctly, chaga has a shelf life of a few months, at minimum, and potentially even longer. It should be obvious that if you bought your chaga from a supplier, they would already dried it for you, so you do not need to take those steps. Drying out chaga is only required if you harvested your own chaga.
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Why Does Chaga Need to Be Dried?
Chaga needs to be dried out to store and use long-term, as humidity causes the chaga to lose nutritional value after it is harvested from the tree. When harvested in peak months, chaga is usually filled with water and humidity, and the removal of that water is part of the preparation process. Chaga that is not properly dried has much shorter shelf life, and is more susceptible to mildew, ruining the chaga and making it ineligible for human consumption.
While you might not think chaga needs to be dried right away if you are only going to enjoy a cup right away, you are not likely going to be using every single piece of chaga that you collect at one time. Drying out your chaga keeps it nutritious, and allows you to preserve it for later, so that you will always have chaga ready when you need it.
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Proper storing chaga is essential for maintaining its nutrient profile. Chaga stored improperly will lose its nutrient content, and can be potentially harmful to anyone consuming it.
Not only that, properly-stored chaga will last a very long time, allowing you to build a stockpile of it and never run out. It is because of this that drying out your chaga is crucial for storage. Unless you are planning to consume the chaga nearly right away after harvesting, you will want to dry it either in the oven or air-drying it in order to maintain its quality.
You do not want to take any chances allowing your chaga to hold onto any moisture, as not only does it decrease its shelf life, but also runs the risk of contaminating your chaga with mold, destroying all your hard work in picking it in the first place. If you care for your chaga, drying it out the right way, it will serve you well into the future. Do not be lazy, get your chaga logs dried out and ready to store long-term by drying it out the right way. While drying your chaga is a lot of hard work and time, it pays off immensely once you have lots of chaga that you can keep stored away for when you need it.