The health food world’s enthusiasm for this ugly fungus has put it under threat.

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Original illustrations by Lucinda Calder

On a birch tree in northern Ontario, a black, charred lump bulges from the flaky white bark. This lump is a chaga mushroom, and there’s a bounty on its life.

Chaga doesn’t look like a mushroom at all: it has no cap, no stem. It’s just a smoky, crusted ball, hardly distinguishable from a blackened burl or charred branch stub. A few strikes with an axe, a couple of back-and-forths with a hacksaw, or even a good whack with a stick can dislodge the main body of a chaga — also known as the conk — from its host tree…

Amir Aziz

Paranoid writer living in the Greater Toronto Area.

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