Wild Edibles on Distant Hill
"The Diamond of the Forest"
Chaga Mushrooms are nothing like the common soft Mushroom. They are almost as hard as wood. Known in Russia as the “Gift from God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality,” chaga have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The Japanese call it “The Diamond of the Forest,” while in China it is known as the “King of Plants.”
Chaga mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, is also known as clinker polypore, cinder conk, black mass and birch canker polypore. It is a parasitic fugi on birch and other trees. The sterile conk is irregularly formed and has the appearance of burnt charcoal. It is not the fruiting body of the fungus, but a mass of mycelium, mostly black due to the presence of massive amounts of melanin.
Documented as early as 4600 years ago, Chaga was used by Asian folk medicine practitioners to maintain a healthy life energy balance or “Chi”, preserve youth, promote longevity, and boost the body’s immune system. It was ingested by the local people of the Siberian mountains as a Chaga Tea, with a flavor that resembles coffee. It was also smoked, or applied to the skin.
Laboratory studies on extract of chaga mushroom have indicated possible future potential in cancer therapy, as an antioxidant, in immunotherapy, and as an anti-inflammatory. For medicinal use, an extract is needed to make the active components available to humans.
An Edible Gem
Gem-studded puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum, are also known as common puffball, warted puffball, or the devil's snuff-box.
Puffballs are considered to be a good edible mushroom when young, when the gleba or inside is still homogeneous and white. Nutritional analysis of pufballs indicates that they are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and several micronutrients.
In maturity, the top of the puffball sloughs away, revealing a pre-formed hole called the ostiole, through which the spores can escape. Mature puffballs release their powdery spores through the ostiole when they are compressed by touch or falling raindrops. A single puff like this can release over a million spores.