The Miracle Mushroom: Discovering Chaga in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains
I took a road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in late spring to visit my friend who moved from Brooklyn to downtown Charlottesville, and while I was there we spent time on Estouteville Farm, a sprawling 290 acre property with a house perched on it. The house was designed by the same architect that build Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, and had a pack of dogs always roaming, a pool that captures the mood of the mountains and a house surrounded by art and sculptures that play with your mind like a complex dream! I knew I was in for a real special experience.
Over our colorful breakfast al fresco style, I was offered a mushroom tea. Later that day, I met the forager who worked on the property and originally introduced what I soon learned was called chaga and its benefits to the farm. He told us about a story where an entire village never showed signs of cancer and the only common thread was that they all consistently drank chaga. I listened to this information like a young child experiencing their first camp fire tales. Originally, when I took my first sip of this ancient mushroom tea, I expected something intense and bitter – but it wasn’t at all; it was actually slightly earthy and quite mild.
We started discussing the health benefits – my holistic antennae was peeking – and when I realized the abundance of antioxidants, melatonin properties, cell reproduction and on and on, I was ready to place my order and start making my own teas. When I got home, I did just that.
It’s simple to prepare – just bring water to a boil, drop the chaga chunks in, and let it simmer for as long as you see fit – anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. (The forager actually makes it in his slow cooker for hours!) It doesn’t need a lot of fussing. I sip it plain or sometimes I sweeten it with a little agave or honey; it’s great cold or hot. I highly recommend purchasing the actual chaga mushroom instead of the pre-made tea; it’s more potent and you can reuse the chaga peices. I also learned from this forager that there are additional health benefits when you steep the chaga in alcohol – they’re alochol-soluble. Can’t wait to try this fascinating ingredient soaked in my tequila and mezcal!
You can read more about the health benefits of chaga at this great site Eartherbs.
And here are a few fun places to visit while in the Charlottesville, Virginia vicinity:
The Farmer’s Market – 207 1st St S, Charlottesville, VA (Open Saturdays 7am to 12pm)
Downtown Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall – the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the United States. Located on Main Street, it runs from 6th St. N.E. to Old Preston Ave., where it extends to Water St., for total length of eight blocks.
Jefferson Vineyard for wine tasting and live music (pack a picnic!) – A family owned vineyard and winery on sprawling land once owned by Thomas Jefferson. A must see in the area! 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA