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We are Chaga Harvesters | INDIE ALASKA


Yeah, we’re really fortunate to have
taken our passion and turned it into a living. Yeah, really I don’t think I could
live any other way honestly. So we’re the owners of Far North Fungi; we grow
gourmet and medicinal mushrooms here in Anchorage, Alaska. The blue oyster we sell to restaurants year-round and now that we’re growing lion’s mane, we’ll also
sell that to restaurants year round. So chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows on
birch trees. It’s a medicinal mushroom that we collect and make tinctures out
of. It’s very high in antioxidants and that’s the primary reason that people
take it every day. So we have a hammer and a chisel, it’s pretty much like a
rock. So, yeah, you can see the outer part is this really charcoal looking
black stuff and then underneath there’s like a light brown; and so you want to
cut in kind of right at the interface but you don’t want to dig into the tree.
Start here and try to go straight down or see if we can get this one off. But yeah I had no idea it was a mushroom; and it’s technically not a mushroom fruiting body.
It’s the sclerotia part the mushroom. The part that fruits is under the bark. Weird fungus definitely. So that was pretty good! So we got into chaga, first off,
because we had a lot of people coming to the market, knowing us as the mushroom
people, and and requesting chaga. And so we did a little more research and
learned that more of it grows up here than anywhere else in the country; and we
started foraging that. (Oh nice!) There’s also a lot of promising research on chaga.
None have been done in large-scale human trials, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s
been done in the lab with human tissue cells showing, like, tumor suppression.
This took probably five, maybe even seven years, given how big it is to get to this
size. So that’s why we try and leave obvious signs of the chaga
still on the outside not scraping it down all the way to the bark, just
because then you’ll make mistakes and end up cutting into the tree; kind of
opening up for other infections. The kind of interest in
chaga has gone from zero to a thousand over the last, like, decade or so. So I
think the worry is that if there’s five to ten years of, kind of, serious
harvesting, you know, especially in Southcentral here, that it might disappear in
20 years or something. We try to be cognizant of that when we’re doing any
sort of harvesting kind of the one-to-three method. For every three mushrooms
you see, you harvest one. That’s kind of one of the reasons that we only do the
tincture and we actually don’t sell the chunks. Just because we want to make sure that out of the chemicals that people are looking for, that that’s the
way to get the most out of a given amount. Yeah, we might as well just bottle all this. If you tried to eat it, you’d probably be pretty disappointed. It’s
definitely got to be made into tea or something else. The general way that
people do it is chaga tea, which you would just make like a normal cup of
black tea; but the problem there is that you’re getting out only a
fraction of the medicinal compounds that are in the mushroom. So
a tincture is just a hyper concentrated extract. Yeah. So now that we’ve harvested this chaga, we want to process it in the first 24-hours, and then in the tincture
we want to include all parts of the chaga. So we get the black, outter part
that’s really concentrated with the melanin. We also want to get the white
that has the mycelium; and then the orange, kind of brown is the sclerotia.
We want to make sure to get all of that in the tincture because they all have
different compounds; and we’ll just top that off with alcohol. So we’ll label
this with the date, today’s date, and what’s in the jar and then we’ll let it
sit for three months on the shelf here at the kitchen; and then we will start
this process where we take the alcohol and we filter out the chaga; and then we
start the tea concentrate and combine the two to make the texture. I can add a
dropper full of this to my coffee in the morning. That’s really good. Finding a partner who was, you know, more than just the relationship and more than just the business, kind of, yeah, it makes
it awesome. Every now and then we’ll kind of have
date nights where we’re not allowed to talk about mushrooms, because we just
will keep going, and at a certain point that’s not healthy. We have to shut it
off, even though we enjoy talking about it. Yeah you don’t want to go into
the work week having fiendishly talked about mushrooms and schemed about mushrooms and suddenly Monday rolls around and you’ve got a ten-hour
day of growing mushrooms ahead of you. It can be a bit much for sure. Uh…sometimes we step on each others toes. Yeah, there’s toe stepping involved, but for the most part, Allison is kind of the lab manager;
and Gabe’s more gregarious than I am and so he, I would say, is more the face of
the business. Kind of doing the parts that I’m too shy to do. Except when we need an attractive face, then we whip out the big guns! It’s kind of a lifestyle thing.
That’s kind of where, it’s like, I don’t know if this would work with a partner
who wasn’t into it. Like, I can’t imagine someone just putting up with petri
dishes in the fridge and like insanity all the time. I just don’t see that
working with someone who wasn’t like kind of nuts about it as well. It smells
so good! Yeah, it does. I think what I love about mushrooms is I
can take my passions, like backpacking, and turn that into a career where I’m
going out and foraging; and at the same time I get to do it with my best friend.
Yeah it’s definitely… it is pretty sweet. It’ll be sweeter, I think, when we’re out
of like the the first, you know, two to three to five years where then you
can have vacations and stuff. I’m looking forward to that, but I
definitely enjoy the freedom associated with, kind of, getting to choose what we
work on and what we want to pursue.

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