How to cultivate Chaga
Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) is a parasitic fungus that grow on birch trees.
The mushroom is often called the king of medicinal fungi and has been used as a medicinal fungus in Asia for a long time.
The Sami also have a long tradition of using chaga for medical purposes.
Chaga is a quite rare mushroom as it does not spread so easily naturally. The demand for the mushroom is high and it can not be cultivated without a living birch tree as a host.
This brings an interesting opportunity to forest owners who have a lot of birch trees in their forests.
The prospects for cultivated chaga are bright and the market potential is enormous.
In Finland, there has been a lot research in recent years on the cultivation of Chaga and methods that make it possible to cultivate chaga have been developed.
We manufacture and sell Chaga dowels directly to forest owners.
Please read the whole in-depth guide on how to cultivate Chaga before starting up your cultivation project.
Before you start
How to store Chaga dowels.
We recommend that you use the dowels as soon as possible after arrival for the best results.
Chaga mycelium is a fresh and perishable product and work best if used as fresh as possible.
The dowels can however be stored in an unopened package in room temperature for up to 7 days.
If you need to store them for longer they can be stored in the fridge at 2-4 ° C for up to one month.
If you are not using the whole package at the same time the leftover dowels should be stored in the fridge and used in 1 week.
Chaga is a long term investment.
Chaga is a slowly growing fungus.
So you will have to have patience.
After you have plugged your birch trees with Chaga dowels you should not expect your first harvest in 6-8 years.
The second and potential third harvest follows in around 4-6 years after the first harvest.
When you do not get any more harvest from the trees you can always cut them down and use them as firewood.
It is common for forest owners to plug Chaga dowels multiple years in a row so that they can have a more consistent harvest later on.
You also need to keep in mind that no one knows how much Chaga will sell for once you are ready to harvest from your trees.
At the moment selling Chaga is very profitable for forest owners and the market price is showing signals of rising. But as with any investment there is a risk involved.
Chaga might end up making you a sizeble profit as an forest owner but it is not a magic unicorn and should not be treated as one.
Who buys the harvest?
We aim to buy back all Chaga cultivated with our dowels.
You are however free to sell the Chaga to whomever you wish.
If someone is willing to pay a better price for it than us then go for it!
We do not lock you in with purchase contracts from day 1.
This is just a fair way to do business in our opinion.
Using your Chaga dowels
We recommend that you plug the dowels into young trees with a diameter of between 15 - 25 cm.
Drill a hole in the birch tree about 40 cm from the ground with a clean 10 mm drill.
Drill a new hole about 50 – 60 cm higher up on the tree than the last hole and repeat the process until you don’t reach any higher up the tree.
We recommend bringing a chair so that it is easier to reach the highest holes that you have drilled.
4-5 dowels per tree is a suitable amount.
Insert the Chaga dowels into the holes that you have drilled.
Hit the Chaga dowels all the way into in the holes you drilled with a hammer.
The end of the dowels should be flush with the bark.
Cover the dowels with protective wax so that no other fungi or bacteria can attack the tree through the hole.
Mark the tree you’ve inoculated with color so that it is easy to find again.
Now you just need to have patience.
After you have inserted the dowels into a living birch tree it takes up to 3 years before the chaga sclerotia or "mushroom" itself begins to grow.
Before that the mushroom mycelium is hard at work in the heartwood of the birch tree. Slowly growing stronger and taking over.
Chaga cultivation timeline
You start the journey by inoculating Chaga dowels into your birches.
You start seeing the first signs of a successful inoculation.
Around the holes where you inoculated the dowels the color is darker and the bark are starting to crack up a bit on some trees.
The first Chaga sclerotia or "mushroom"start to surface out of the trees.
This does not always happen exactly were dowels were inserted. But usually nearby.
More sclerotia appear and the ones that have already surfaced are growing bigger every year.
The first Chaga harvest is ready.
You contact potential buyers before the harvest.
You harvest the Chaga and sell it.
Now it's time to reap the second harvest.
This time it is a bit easier since it is not the first time you are doing it.
You harvest the last projected Chaga from your trees.
You cut the trees down and make firewood out of them. You use some to heat your sauna and sell some to your neighbor.
Are you ready to start cultivating Chaga in your forest?
FAQ Chaga Cultivation
Can Chaga only be grown on living trees?
Yes, if you want to cultivate Chaga you need to inoculate the mycelium into living Birch trees.
You can cultivate the mycelium itself in a laboratory but the sclerotia or actual "mushroom" itself will not form without a living birch tree as a host.
This fact is what makes Chaga an interesting investment for forest owners.
Since there is demand for Chaga and it is not possible to cultivate in large temperature controlled chambers it brings interesting possibilities for forest owners.
Other "medicine" mushrooms like Reishi are not as interesting opportunities since they can be cultivated with traditional mushroom growing techniques.
How much Chaga will one tree produce?
The dowels are projected to produce 1-2 kg of Chaga per dowel.
We recommend using 4-5 dowels per tree.
So that gives 5-10 kg per tree over the lifetime of the tree.
Please note that this is pessimistic predictions. The actual growth is most likely larger.
Do you buy Chaga?
Yes. We do buy Chaga.
At the moment we only buy Finnish fresh Chaga due to limited production tests.
Please note! We do not buy Chaga that have been harvested and dried at home.
If you want to sell Chaga to us please contact us before you harvest the Chaga.
Can you grow Chaga anywhere?
Chaga is more prevalent in the Northern hemisphere.
If Chaga is growing naturally in your region it should be a suitable location to cultivate Chaga in.
When is the best time of the year to insert Chaga dowels?
The best time of the year to inoculate Chaga in the Nordic countries is between May-October.
In other regions the best time to plug Chaga dowels might differ.
Do you have to cover the dowels with protective wax?
It is not mandatory to cover the dowels with protective wax but we highly recommend it.
Protective wax is included with all Chaga dowel orders.
What is the success rate of the Chaga dowels?
The success rate varies depending on the forest itself and the growth environment.
In Finland around 75 % of the plugged dowels suceed.
The success rate might differ in other countries. This is something that have to be tested on a broader scale to make conclusions about.
How do I know that the inoculation has worked?
Chaga is a slowly growing fungus.
The first sign of a sucessful inoculation is that the area around the dowel becomes darker.
It takes up to four years after inoculation until the Chaga sclerotia or actual "mushroom" will start forming on the tree trunk.
Can someone else pick the Chaga that I’ve cultivated?
In Finland it is not legal to pick Chaga without the landowners permission.
This might not be the case in other countries. So it is wise to check your local laws before starting large Chaga cultivation projects.
Chaga theft is quite rare but does happen.
It is wise to confirm that your insurence covers Chaga cultivation before inoculating larger amounths.